Monday, April 25, 2011

Home Sweet Home - 1

This week we started a new sermon series at Live Oak called "Home". It is all about what that word means, how it influences us, how we make one, and how do we go back.

Our true home is with Jesus in heaven but we are not there yet. How do we deal with living in the tension between making a home for ourselves on earth, knowing that it is temporary and not our 'true' home?

Some of us have experienced this feeling when we are in between 'permanent' homes. Those times when we are either living out of a suitcase or living in a house or apartment that is only temporary. We don't hang curtains or pictures. We don't let the kids unpack all of their toys. We try to get by on 2 pans and 1 cooking pot.

It is not a lot of fun. In fact, living this way can be incredibly stressful.

While living in the tension between our earthly, temporary home and our heavenly, permanent one, we need to be flexible. We don't know how long we are going to be here and so we might as well hang those curtains and pictures and get the rooms nice and cozy. We just have to remember that this isn't 'it'. We can be comfortable without becoming apathetic.

I don't think God wants us to be stressed out and on edge but I do think he wants us to remember who we are and where we are going.

While thinking about this might not change a lot in the way you 'live' in your house, it should shift the way you think about your stuff and the way you live your life. Everything we have is temporary. God and heaven are eternal.

This week, think about that and pray about how God might be calling you to shift your focus and your attitude so that while you fully live your life here on earth, you are fully invested in what is eternal.


1 John 2:15-17 (The Message)

Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

John 21

Can't you just see Peter? This big, gregarious guy who more often leaps before he looks? Peter LOVES Jesus and he is probably just starting to recover from the shame caused by his denial that he was a follower of Christ a few days before.

Peter hears John say that it is Jesus on the shore and he jumps in the water and swims to shore because he is so impatient to get to Jesus. Then he jumps back into the sea at one word from Jesus to help bring in the catch of fish.

After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times. This seems redundant but the first two times Jesus asks, he actually asks Peter if he loves him with a sacrificial love (agape) and Peter answers saying he loves Jesus with an affectionate (phileo) love. The third time Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, he uses the same Greek word that Peter has been using, "phileo".

Jesus then alludes to the death that Peter will face because of his faith in Him. It is as if Jesus is trying to get Peter to understand that his love for Jesus is a sacrificial love. Peter does eventually come to understand this because he exhibits sacrifical love for Jesus when he is killed for his faith.

How many of us are willing to become martyrs for our faith? Not many of us would be able to say that we love Jesus with a sacrifical love. If asked right now, I suspect most of us, just like Peter, would choose to use the verb 'phileo' when describing our love for Jesus. And, like Peter, we would be hurt that Jesus kept asking us if we loved him.

Christianity, however, is not a religion for the faint hearted. It is based on faith in a God who sacrifices everything to be with us. Why wouldn't we be expected to sacrifice everything for Him?

What do you need to sacrifice in order to follow Jesus?

Father God, on this day that we remember the sacrifice of your son, Jesus Christ, help us to let go of everything that holds us back from you. Help us to see our lives as an offering to you and to love you above everyone and everything else in this world. Amen.



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

John 20

It is one thing to be told by your beloved leader that he must be killed and then rise from the dead - it is completely another to watch it happen.

Mary Magdalene and John, the first two to see that something was not 'normal' at the tomb wait outside but Peter runs in to look. The scripture says they 'believed' but they were not quite sure of what they believed.

Mary stays after the men leave and weeps. While she weeps, two angels and Jesus appear to comfort her. She is the first person who Jesus directs to go and tell the good news of his resurrection. Mary Magdalene, a woman commonly thought of as a reformed prostitute, is the first to see the resurrected Lord. Not only is she given this honor, but she is also given the charge of telling what she has seen.

From here, Jesus appears to the rest of the disciples to show proof of his resurrection. Thomas needs extra proof and our gracious Lord gives it to him saying, "...blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." That's us who Jesus is talking about.

Jesus knows that we have doubts. He knows that we have fears. We cannot be 100% sure all the time. It is okay, even the disciples doubted. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is what our whole faith hangs on and it matters. If you are not sure how this all works, you are not alone. But God can give you the faith to move forward even if you don't understand it.

Heavenly Father, we do not understand your ways or the works that you do on Earth. Forgive us for our doubts, help strengthen our faith, and give us joy in the miracle of the resurrection of your son, Jesus Chris. Amen.



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

John 19:17-42

Jesus, King of the Jews, is crucified, dead and buried.

In today’s scripture, we see people being faithful and doing what they believe to be right, even though it might be dangerous.

Pilate, angry that the Jewish leaders have put him in an impossible situation, has a sign placed on the cross that Jesus is crucified on stating, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. To increase the audacity factor in this, Pilate has it written in the three main languages that the people in that time and place speak. Pilate wants the Jews to be fearful that they have made him an accessory in murdering this man who has stated that he is the Son of God.

Jesus’ mother, and the two other Mary’s, as well as John stand if full view of the public and stay with Jesus while he dies rather than hiding during what they probably believe to be the end of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus puts his mother into the care of John to ensure her well-being until her death.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both men who have up to now kept their faith in Jesus secret, take responsibility for Jesus’ body and burial: Actions that while not as public as shouting their belief in Jesus from the Temple steps, are still dangerous as well as financially costly. These two men give Jesus an expensive burial – buying a tomb that has never been used and anointing Jesus’ body with 75 pounds of expensive perfumes and ointments.

It has taken Jesus’ death on a cross for people to begin to express their belief more publicly. When Jesus was leading them in life, it was easy to let Jesus be the one who stood out. Now that Jesus has been crucified, they are beginning to realize that if they truly believe that he is who he claimed, they must begin to step out in faith and take risks for this man/God who took such great risks for them.

Heavenly Father, help us to know you even though we have not seen you with our physical senses. Help us to understand what is at risk in both denying and publically claiming you. Give us the ability o do what you are calling us to do in every situation we face. Amen.



Monday, April 18, 2011

John 18:28-19:16

What is Pilate to do with this group who are adamant that Jesus be crucified? The Jews were unable to hand down capital punishment as an official verdict and yet the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead. He was causing too much unrest among their people.

It is interesting to note that the Jewish leaders would not even enter the Roman Palace because to do so would cause them to be ceremonially unclean on the day of preparation for the Passover. Once again, the leaders are much more concerned with the law, than with grace or mercy. They do not understand that God has sent Jesus to teach them a radical new way of thinking – that God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us without our needing to fulfill all the formal ceremonial trappings of sacrifice and penance. Pilate knows that Jesus has committed no crime under Roman law and tries to convince the Jewish leaders to let Jesus go, but they are adamant that Jesus must die. Even, Pilate, a pagan governor who is meeting Jesus for the first time knows that there is something special about this man and he is fearful of taking action against him. Pilate has Jesus beaten, hoping that will satisfy the religious leaders but it doesn’t. Finally, Pilate tells them that it is in their hands after they back him into an untenable position of putting to death a man who claims to be the Son of God or being killed himself for committing treason against Caesar.

Our lives are full of difficult choices. Peter, in yesterday’s reading, and Pilate in today’s reading are both faced with the choice of denying God and remaining safe on Earth or choosing eternity and losing their earthly existence.

These are hard choices to make. While our choices may sadden God, he will always still love us. My question to you this morning is knowing that God will take care of you and your loved ones no matter what happens on earth, what will you choose when put in a situation where you have to choose between the temporary and the eternal?

Father God, we know that you will take care of us but we confess that we are weak and fearful. Forgive us for our inability to stand up for you in small ways, let alone in ways that might cost us dearly in this world. Strengthen our faith when we are weak and help us to forgive ourselves when we fail you in this world. Amen.



Sunday, April 17, 2011

John 17:1-18:27

The Passion of the Christ begins in today’s reading. Jesus prepares both himself and his disciples for what is to come through prayer. This is very important to note. If Jesus, who is God, prays to God the Father for protection and strength, then we know how very, very important it is for us, who do not have the intimate connection of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), to pray to God on a frequent and regular basis.

Jesus spends a long time praying not only for his followers, but for those who will believe in Him through the testimony of his followers. This time of prayer strengthens Jesus and his disciples. Jesus calmly goes to meet his fate and stands firm before his accusers. And Peter, despite the fact that he denies Jesus three times, does not run off and hide after the arrest of Jesus. Rather, he follows to where the soldiers take Jesus and mingles in the crowd. Peter’s denial is cowardly and shameful, but can any of us say we would behave differently in that situation? He loves Jesus but his life is also in the balance.

Jesus knows what we are going to do before we do it – both the good and the bad. And he still loves us. Jesus knows us more intimately than we even know ourselves. He intercedes on our behalf to God the Father that we might be forgiven for all the many, many ways we sin each day.

Today, I would like you to think about what it means that the God of the universe who created and knows you better than anyone, still loves you despite what you do and don’t do. AND not only does he still love you but he died on the cross for you.

God, help me to know how much you love me. Help me to respond to that love with humility and gratitude and the desire to serve and follow you. Amen.



Thursday, April 14, 2011

John 16

Jesus continues to tell the disciples that following him will cause them trouble. In fact, he tells them that they will be killed because of their faith and the people who pursue them will think they are doing the right thing.

Jesus never said being a Christian would be easy. In fact, he states very clearly the opposite: “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) But we are to “take heart” because this world is not eternal. Because Jesus died on the cross he “has overcome the world” and we do not have to fear this life. No matter what happens to us in this life, it is fleeting. It doesn’t always feel that way, but whatever pain we feel in this life will be healed in eternity, for eternity.

We sometimes wonder why God lets painful/horrible things happen to us. It is hard for us to look at the horizon when we are so immersed in the pain of a specific event. But God has gone above and beyond for us. The greatest miracle that God ever did for each of us was the miracle of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. Because of that miracle,we have hope. Because of that miracle, we know that we will be resurrected to live in eternal joy with our God.

Where in your life do you need to take a longer view? What pain and suffering in your life can you give over to God who has conquored all the pain and suffering of this world?

Father God, help ease our suffering where we have painful memories. Heal us of our sorrows and our losses. Give us the perspective of an eternity with you to offset the sufferings of this life. Amen.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

John 15

Jesus has given us a roadmap for life in this chapter of John. If we stay in relationship with God through prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship with other Christians, and worship, then we will be able to do amazing things that are only possible through God.

Sometimes we think that these “amazing things” need to be lofty, far-reaching acheivments. This is not true. If God helps you accomplish anything that you normally cannot do on your own then it is an amazing thing. If you need help to love your spouse through a tough time in your marriage when you aren’t feeling the passion and you are able to do it, then God has helped you do an amazing thing. If I, as a mom, can get through the day without raising my voice, then God has helped me to do an amazing thing.

Yes, there will be times when the things God helps you do will be bigger in the world’s eyes than the things mentioned above, but God is there with us at all times, just a prayer away, waiting to give us his strength, patience, love, and committment when we need them. Jesus also reminds us today that we are not always going to be loved or appreciated for what we are called to do as Christians. That is okay. We can take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus was not always loved or appreciated either (just a slight understatement!)

As Christians, nurtured by Christ through the Holy Spirit, we know life will not always be easy. But we know we will never be left alone. God will always be with us in what he calls us to do, giving us what we need to be able to do it through him. Where is God at work in your life helping you make changes and choices that lead to amazing things?

Father God, thank you for helping us accomplish amazing things - from tasks or problems that are only big to us, to tackleing issues that effect the whole world. We ask that you would help us start every day asking for your strength and peace to complete the tasks you set before us. Help us to know you are with us and we don’t have to ‘do’ life on our own. Amen.



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

John 13: 31-14:30

Jesus knows that Peter will deny any affiliation with him the night before he is crucified and yet knowing that, Peter is still a well-loved and important disciple. He is the one that Jesus gave the name “Peter” to, because it means “rock”. God knows that we are going to fail him. We will deny him. We will make bad choices that lead us into sin. But he is going to love us anyway. We will all mess up, but Jesus is still the way to eternal life for us. Even though we will make mistakes over and over again, Jesus still wants us to try to follow his commandments and to love one another. God sent his Holy Spirit to be with us and encourage us to keep moving forward. What great news for all of us! God, thank you so much for loving us enough to send not only Jesus, who made it possible for us to be forgiven, but your Holy Spirit who encourages us and gives us comfort. Amen. CS


Monday, April 11, 2011

John 13:1-30 Jesus knows who he is and where he will be going. He is secure in God the Father’s love for him and because of this, Jesus is able to serve those around him even though, for him, servanthood means death on a cross. Being able to truly serve those around us means letting go of any pride we might be hanging on to. If we are stuck on how we look or what image we are portraying, then we will never be able to serve the way Jesus is calling us to serve. Pride gets in the way of serving our neighbors, friends, and our spouses or other significant people in our lives. We are afraid of looking weak, foolish, or being hurt emotionally and so we don’t allow ourselves to fulfill the needs of the other. If we, like Jesus, stand in the love of God however, opening ourselves to others is a lot easier. Laughter and rejection still sting, but it is not devastating when we know we are loved and living the life we are called to live. Where is Jesus calling you to have a servant’s heart? In what areas of your life do you need to let go of your pride? Heavenly Father, we want to serve those around us but we are so often fearful people. Help us to powerfully experience your love for us so that we can share that love with others. Amen. CS


Sunday, April 10, 2011

John 12 Jesus puts a clear choice before us in today’s reading. Choose him or choose the world. There is not a middle ground. We can’t choose Jesus privately and then behave in contrary ways in public. We can’t say we believe in him and then hedge our bets by blending in with the crowd because it is easier. Verses 42-43 seem to sum up what is going on in Chapter 12 very well: “ Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory of God.” One person standing up for what they believe can make a huge difference in this world. Do you know that in a mob mentality if one person stands up as the voice of reason, the crowd usuallly disperses? When someone is being bullied, most people ignore it or particpate in it because they are afraid to do anything else. Yet if one person distracts the bully or stands up for the person being bullied, it usually starts a chain reaction and the crowd begins to turn on the bully. It just takes one person to stand up for what they believe to make a difference in this world. Who and what are you going to stand up for? Father God, forgive us for being cowards. Forgive us for wanting to take the easy path and be part of the crowd. Help us to be brave. Give us courage to speak up when words need to be spoken and give us the wisdom to choose the right words. Amen. CS


Thursday, April 7, 2011

John 11:1-57

The Dead Receive Life

Jesus was ministering in a city when messengers arrived explaining that one of his close friends living in a distant city was very ill. Interestingly, Jesus continued ministering in the locality where he was because he was certain that he could deal with his friend’s sickness, and he knew the sickness would ultimately bring glory to God. When Jesus finally decided to travel to his friend’s city, one of his disciples reminded him that there were people in that locality who desired to kill him. Jesus responded to his disciple by saying that when a person walks in the light he/she will not stumble. In other words, Jesus was returning to his friend's side with full knowledge that he had a commission to complete on earth before his life would be destroyed. Therefore, God would not allow anything to happen to him until his earthly mission was completed. This is true for Jesus and it was also true for his friend, Lazarus, who was on the verge of death awaiting the arrival of the anointed one.
When Jesus finally arrived in the town where his comrade resided, Lazarus had already passed away. In fact, he had been buried in a tomb for four days, and the grieving process for the beloved friend and companion was nearing a time of completion. Lazarus’ two sisters met with Jesus and lamented the untimely loss of their brother. Jesus explained that he would restore Lazarus’ life, but this miracle was inconceivable to the sisters, and so they began rationalizing that Jesus was referring to the final resurrection at the end of the age. Surprisingly, as Jesus stood among Lazarus’ grieving friends and family, he was moved to tears because of the agony of death that overwhelmed them so punitively. Conceivably, Jesus was contemplating the fact that he would soon pay the penalty required to set humanity free from all of the consequences of sin.
Finally, Jesus asked the family and friends to direct them to the location of Lazarus’ tomb. After arriving there, Jesus instructed some of the mourners to roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb, and then he loudly commanded Lazarus to come out of the burial place. Suddenly, Lazarus came out of the darkened tomb wearing the bindings of grave clothes on his hands and feet. Jesus directed those nearby to remove the grave clothes so he could walk about freely as a man resurrected to life.
One of the primary duties of Christ is to set humanity free from the bondage of death. Notice that even though Lazarus had been released from death and the tomb, he was still bound with deaths entrapments. Jesus asked those around him to remove the garments of death so that he could fully enjoy the life Christ had given him rather than being a person who exhibited the restrictions of death even though he was alive. Often times, those of us who have experienced life in Christ continue to accept the negative garments of sinful attitudes, controlling habits, and improper relationships. Christ has visited our "tombs of life" and has set us free from the consequences of death. Therefore it is imperative, as people who have been set free from the bondage of sin, for us to enjoy every day to the fullest extent.

- Terry Minter


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

John 10:22-42

Jesus Teaches Unbelievers

In this passage the writer, John, informs the reader of the date and place of Christ’s teaching encounter with a group of interested Jews. The date was the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah, which occurred yearly in the month of December. The place of the gathering was the Jewish holy Temple in a section called Solomon's Porch. It was at this location that rabbis would stroll along with students as they expounded important teachings of faith and doctrine.
As Jesus strolled along through the magnificent 40 feet tall colonnades that decorated this fascinating Temple precinct, interested Jewish believers came to him and asked, "How long are you going to keep us in suspense? Tell us plainly are you God's Anointed One?" Undoubtedly, the question was motivated by at least two different attitudes. One was a genuine desire to know if Jesus was the Messiah. The other, without question, was motivated by a desire to entice Christ to claim divinity so they could trap him into making a statement that would later be used as a charge of blasphemy. Jesus responded that he had already informed them of his identity, but it is not clear that he explained his divinity publicly with vernacular that could be understood by casual listeners.
It is certain that Jesus did indicate his identity with his numerous divine exploits. In fact, in addition to his anointed teachings, every one of Jesus' miracles was a proclamation that he was truly the Messiah. When Jesus spoke, his words revealed an enormous authority that was unmistakably from a divine source. Thus, in words and deeds Jesus declared that he was the living Messiah who had come to the earth to dwell among humanity.
Jesus then declared to the group of Jews that he and the Father were one. Many of those listening interpreted this statement as a form of blasphemy, and they began collecting stones to assassinate him on the spot. Before they could begin slaying him Jesus interjected, "… If you do not believe me, believe my works that you may know and recognize that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." In other words, it is easy to argue about statements, but it is impossible to debate the fact that blind eyes were made to see, ears of the deaf were opened, and lame people were enabled to walk and dance.
Jesus did not base his claims only on what he said, but the truth of his divinity relied on his actions in the presence of the world’s inhabitants. The example of Jesus' life is significant for everyone throughout the ages. Every true Christian must go beyond expressions of Christian philosophy and be able to demonstrate their faith by caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and comforting the sorrowful.

- Terry Minter


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

John 10:1-21

The Good Shepherd

There is no better analogy describing Jesus than referring to him as "the good Shepherd." The area of Judea where Jesus ministered was very pastoral and therefore a valuable figure for the culture was the shepherd. In that age there were no protective fences, and therefore the shepherds had to maintain constant vigilance over their flocks to ensure that they did not stray from the secure assembly, and to guard them against external violence. Jesus compares himself to the shepherd when he states that through him humanity can "go in and come out." In other words members of his “flock” have the ability to come and go unmolested because as members of his group they were absolutely secure and safe. Then Jesus draws the contrast between the good and bad and the faithful and unfaithful shepherd. He describes himself as the good Shepherd who constantly watches over his sheep, knows them individually, and has patient love for each one of them. In contrast, the unfaithful shepherd comes to a job for the sake of making money. He has no sense of the nature of his sheep and does not learn the responsibilities involved in the shepherding task; he is a hireling. Then Jesus adds, "I have other sheep which are not of this fold. These too I must bring…" In other words, he constantly desires for everyone to enter into his loving and secure fold. He desires for the entire world to become part of his protected fold and to dwell with him as their shepherd. In the final portion of this passage Jesus informs everyone that he voluntarily laid down his life for them. He was not a helpless victim of his circumstances, but he loved us so much that he paid the full price so we could live forever with him in peace and security. Jesus not only created us in the beginning, but he also willfully paid the price for us after we had left him and had become imprisoned with sinfulness. There is no greater love than the love of the Good Shepherd.

- Terry Minter


Monday, April 4, 2011

John 9

Manifestations Versus Theories

This chapter describes the only miracle in the Gospels relating to a person who was born blind. The Jews connected sufferings with sin, but this person was born with the infirmity of blindness. Therefore, they asked Christ, "Is this man's blindness due to his own sin or to the sins of his parents?" During the period when Christ ministered in Jerusalem, Jews believed that the sins of parents could result in various sicknesses of their children. They also believed that human souls pre-existed in the world prior to the Garden of Eden in a "seventh heaven," or some type of “chamber" awaiting entrance into a physical embryo. It was also believed that souls could become corrupt as they waited for existence in the physical world of humanity. In this passage John makes no connection between sinfulness and suffering. He only states that a person's sicknesses are an opportunity for God to express his sovereignty. In John 9:6 – 12, Jesus healed the blind man by making mud with his spittle and rubbing it onto the eyes of the blind man. As strange as this seems, using spittle for a situation such as this was practiced at that time in the ancient world. In that culture spittle, especially from a distinguished person, was believed to possess certain curative qualities. Jesus employed methods and customs that were familiar to people of the society where he existed in order to accomplish his purposes. Naturally, when this miracle was reported to scribes, they investigated the episode to validate its occurrence. After receiving assurances of the legitimacy of the miracle, the scribes began questioning the authenticity of Jesus as an individual. They were suggesting that even though the miracle occurred, it could not have been from God because Jesus was a Sabbath-breaking sinner. They reasoned that he was clearly a sinner because he did the work of healing this blind individual on the Sabbath. The blind man who was healed retorted, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know – I used to be blind and now I can see." Like the blind man, Christians sometimes are unable to articulate their faith with precise, theologically correct language. In spite of this, each Christian can witness about what Christ has done for them as spiritual beings. Stating that Jesus gives a person's life meaning and fulfillment is a wonderful concept that has a richness that does not exist in any theory no matter how innovative it might be. As a true follower of Christ it is important for us to simply confess that we once were blind, but now we can see.

- Terry Minter


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day One – John 8:31 – 59

The True Disciple:
It is possible that many people know about the church but do not have an understanding of the essence of following Jesus as a Christian. This passage explains that the essence of truly following Jesus involves accepting what he says as truth, following his wisdom consistently, and enjoying the freedom that results from this lifestyle. In this passage, Jesus explains that following his precepts results in gaining a life of freedom, but his listeners responded that they did not need to be freed because they had never been slaves. He countered that their slavery was a different kind; they were slaves to a hopeless, non-productive lifestyle.
The listeners then replied that it was impossible for them to be slaves to a negative lifestyle because their ancestor Abraham was the very godly leader. Jesus answered that their relationship to him was not dependent on their pedigree, heritage, or tradition. Their present association with Christ was dependent only on their present and personal relationship with him. He then summarized that if they were truly related to God, then they would exhibit characteristics similar to him. Furthermore, he stated that those who desired to assassinate him were related to the father of murderers rather than the father of love and acceptance. Therefore, the essence of following Christ is to learn of him and acquire his features.

- Terry Minter