Keep Going.

Wednesday - March 20, 2019

Luke 13:31-35 and Matthew 23:37-39

  From Pastor Garry 

While Luke has a few more stories to tell after chapter 13, Matthew puts this conversation near the end of his book, during Holy Week.  I like to believe Matthew’s timing because to me it seems like Jesus is giving a beautiful “beginning of the end” song. It sounds to me like He is saying, “Jerusalem, you had a chance. But you have missed the point.”  That being said, the thing I like about Luke’s context is that He combines this song with Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees.  His words, “I must press on” in Luke 13:33, together with His lament over Jerusalem in verse 34 gives us something to apply directly, I believe.

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Think about this: I picture the Pharisees making this message in verse 31 up.  Because they could not figure out how to get Jesus to stop preaching a message of grace and forgiveness which is offered to all people, I imagine them stuttering and looking around while making up their words on the spot: “umm…Herod…I think he…wants to kill you.  Yeah, that’s it…he wants to kill you!  No really!  So…you had better leave!”  Of course, we know from the information we have on the Pharisees that their motive was not protecting Jesus.  We know they simply want Him gone!  They were working any angle they could think of to stop the Christ from doing the work of His Father.  And this is where Jesus replies with “I must press on.” Even if Herod really did want to kill Him, Jesus would press on.  Even if all that was happening was that the Pharisees were making up excuses to get Him out of town, Jesus would press on! No matter the circumstance, Jesus determined that He had to keep going.  Despite vain attempts, despite the temptation to call it quits and despite the reality of how hard it would continue to be, Jesus presses on.

Now, change your focus for a second to the lament song.  Why these words about Jerusalem?  Why such an emotional description about the city?  Remember, last week Pastor Jesse filled us in on the significance of the number 40 in the season of Lent.  And again, in God’s incredible eye for detail, Jesus’ location is too important to miss.  You see, Jerusalem is not a random place and it is not by chance this whole week was spiraling around the city.  Jerusalem itself symbolizes and reminds us of so many different pieces of the Old Testament; so many different works that God had been doing for the people that inhabited that city.  It reminds us of David and his desire to build a temple.  It reminds us of God’s faithfulness during the destruction of the temple and the rebuilding after exile.  It reminds us of how just a thirty some years before Jesus’ words in Luke 13, He Himself visited as a boy (remember, when His parents were looking for Him, He answered with “why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) as if to say, “where else would I be!?”). Now coming full circle, He can say at the edge of His earthly life, “where else would I be!?”  It has to be Jerusalem where this story gets its next chapter! 

So then, let’s put those two things together: pressing on and lamenting over Jerusalem.  The people of Jerusalem had opportunities to be gathered as chicks to Jesus’ side, but instead their house is left desolate.  The people of Jerusalem saw the need for a Messiah.  They believed that One would come to save them.  They believed that God would not forget them.  They had so many things correct!  But rather than understanding it and be gathered to Jesus’ side, they missed the next step in the faith journey: the realization that Jesus was and the Christ!  The realization that Jesus was the Messiah they had been promised!  If only they could have “pressed on” in their belief and completed the journey from promise to fulfillment!

And today, if only we ourselves could not stop halfway when it comes to our faith journey.  If only we were able to press on with Jesus Christ to truly understand the work that He desires to do in our lives!  I believe He wants to do so much in us and through us but we miss the opportunity.

Take this season of Lent as a reminder to press on.  Take this opportunity to truly be gathered to Jesus’ side as chicks to a mother hen!

Press on.

What is Lent?

Wednesday - March 13, 2019

   From Pastor Jesse

Matthew 4:1-2:  “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”  For those of us who have read this Scripture before, we know the rest of the story.  The Devil tries to tempt Jesus into following him, Jesus rebuffs him with the words of Deuteronomy followed by commanding Satan to depart from Him, and angels then attend to Christ.  It is really a fascinating and amazing testimony of the power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  By why bring it up now to start the Lenten season?  Why focus on this passage now?

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For those of us who grew up in the Church, and even some of us who haven’t, we are familiar with the concept of Lent.  The time of year where, for 40 days, Christians all over the world prepare themselves for Easter through prayer, fasting, and repentance of their sin, which we do to celebrate the coming of Christ who gives us purity through His sacrifice.  Already, we should have some idea of why we are looking at Jesus in the desert, for there is a direct parallel:  Jesus spent 40 days fasting and rebuking the Devil; we spend 40 days fasting and repenting of our sin.  As you can see, the number “40” plays a significant part in the Lenten Season. 

But then, I suppose we are left with another question.   Why 40 days specifically?  Well, the answer to this question is quite fascinating.  As I mentioned above, Jesus uses the words of Scripture, specifically Deuteronomy, to rebuff the Devil’s temptations.  This is not by chance but by choice.  In a way only God can do, Jesus is making an intentional connection with not only the words of Deuteronomy, but also the actions of those in the Old Testament.  In other words, Jesus spending 40 days in the desert is significant as he is commemorating the actions of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament.

For example, how long did the Israelites spend wandering the desert?  40 years.  “That’s fine”, you may think to yourself, “But that’s just a coincidence”.  Well, allow me to point out other fascinating facts.  If we were to read Genesis 7:4, we see that during the time of Noah, it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights.  The purpose of which was to purify the earth of sin, which also just so happens to be the purpose of Jesus.  The parallels between Jesus and the Old Testament should be starting to intrigue you right now.

But wait, there’s more.  As it says in Deuteronomy 9:18, we see that Moses fasts for 40 days and nights, in order to appease the Lord after Israel’s sin.  In Exodus 24:18, Moses spent 40 days and nights in the presence of the Lord.  In Jonah3:4, we see that Jonah tells the people of Nineveh that they would be overthrown in 40 days, unless they repent of their sin against the Lord. 

And at this point you may be asking, “This is all fascinating, but what’s the purpose of knowing this?”  Well, all of these examples have something in common.  In all of them, the number 40 is associated with temptation, sin, fasting, repentance, and purification, which if you recall is the exact purpose of Lent itself!  In other words, in a fascinating way that only God can ordain, Lent is not just a time of remembrance and preparation.  Lent is a literal connection through all of time to our Christian forbearers.  Lent is a season where we realize that though we sin, God will be and has always been faithful to us!  I pray that in this season of Lent we not see it as just another “law” to be observed.  It is my prayer that Lent would be a time where we see God’s plan unfolding from generation to generation.

Where is Your Heart?

Ash Wednesday - March 6, 2019

Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-21

  From Pastor Garry 

Yesterday, I read a tweet that said something along these lines: “as you begin lent, don’t forget to tell everyone know what you are doing via social media!” Funny…and convicting! When I am about to do something or to give something up, I sometimes wonder “what if no one notices? What if no one sees?” I’ve learned from spending 36 years with myself that my motives aren’t always pure and completely righteous. And so I’ve learned to ask simply “Is this is a God thing or is this a Garry thing?” and my prayer becomes “God please, make this about You and not about me.” We are told in Matthew 6 to give without others knowing; we are told to pray without letting anyone see and we are told to hide the fact that we are fasting. Why? Isn’t our faith supposed to be visible and noticeable? Aren’t we supposed to be communal in our lives, especially in our faith lives? Maybe not always.

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Ending the chapter with treasures in heaven, I think Matthew’s passage gives a clear question concerning these disciplines of faith: WHERE IS YOUR HEART? Underneath the act itself is the motive,  aka, the heart. And it seems right to ask “why am I doing this? Where is my heart?” I remember being around 10 years old when my Grandpa Lubbers passed away. I was upset, and I asked my Dad, how do I know that I will see Grandpa again in heaven? Dad answered, “because you are asking the question!” Sometimes, asking the question is the answer; it shows that we are thinking about it and that we are concerned about the right things, as we prepare to give things up for lent or to take an action of a spiritual discipline during this season, be encouraged to ask the question “where is my heart?” and let God direct your motive.