Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Parable of the Honored Painter

What does it mean to glorify God?

It can be explained like this:

There was a man who desired to be a painter. He spent many years painting magnificent pictures that beautifully captured sunrises and sunsets, rainbows and storm clouds, mountain peaks and oceans waves.

Finally came the day when his paintings were displayed in an art gallery. Person after person were struck by the beauty displayed in each painting. They stood in awe before the paintings, totally immersed in the painted scenes.

Then came the big moment when the painter was introduced to the crowd. People praised him for his skill and his eye for beauty.

The artist was honored with good reviews from art critics and money from those who wanted to place his paintings in their homes.

While people were taken in by the beauty of the paintings, they did not stand there and sing the praises of the pictures. They honored and praised the one who had painted them.

When we live according to God's will, truly bearing His image, we bring glory to God in two ways:

  1. We glorify God by living the way He created us to live. Our faith displays the reality of our honor and trust of Him. 
  2. Our good behavior causes other people to glorify God. The way we live provides evidence for God and His love for us, and thus give our neighbors to reason to praise Him.

People may appreciate our good behavior, but when the Creator is introduced, they will worship Him.

"Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world." 

1 Peter 2:12; NLT

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Lead Like Jesus

“For the follower of Jesus, servant leadership isn’t just an option, it’s a mandate.” ~ Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, The Servant Leader, p. 12

I know many of us don’t feel like leaders.

Even though I have been involved in paid ministry the majority of my adult life, I have had difficulty embracing the idea that I am a leader.

I could always embrace being a preaching and a teacher, but not being a leader. There was something leadership that I wanted to avoid.

Yet, I can't truly be a pastor without being a leader.

In order to talk about leadership it is best to begin by defining what leadership is. It seems everyone has their own take on the definition of leadership.

The way I understand leadership is that leadership is influence. We are leaders when we, in one way or another, influence the choices or beliefs of another person.

When looked at it this way we see that parents, teachers, authors, and even friends are powerful leaders in our lives. They provide leadership in our lives more often than people who wear the actual title of leader. I know that my parents have influenced me more than anyone else.

If leadership is best defined as influence then I would image that each of us is able to lead in several different ways, even though we don’t consider ourselves to be a leader.

Once we recognize that we have several opportunities to lead those around us, then it becomes crucial for us to consider the best way for us to lead.

As followers of Jesus we need to look to him to be our example of what leadership actually looks like.

Since that is the case, as Blanchard and Hodges point out in the above quote, we realize that we are called to be servant leaders, because that is how Jesus led.

One of my favorite passages is Philippians 2:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:3-8; NLT)

Paul urged his readers to be humble and to look after the needs of others. In other words, to be a servant.

The example, according to Paul, that we are to follow is Jesus.

Jesus gave up heaven in obedience to his Father's will and out of love for us. He looked after our interest rather than his own. Paul wrote, "he took on the humble position of a slave..."

The way of Jesus was not one of power, even though he had that at his disposal, but of humility and service. This is the way God chose to influence the world.

If we are going to influence the world, the men and women we live around, we need to be humble and we need to serve. That is how we will have influence with them, because they will know that we have their best interest at heart.

 People will listen when they know the leader cares about them.

Lead like Jesus and serve those around you.

Friday, April 19, 2019


The starting point for Good Friday is the betrayal that happened on Thursday. It was the choice of
Judas to betray Jesus that sent in motion the final hours of Jesus' life.

Why did Judas make this choice?

We cannot know for certain the thoughts Judas had in the days leading up to Passover. I still think it is safe to speculate that, like humankind's first betrayal of God, Satan twisted Judas' thoughts and desire to the point that the betrayal of Jesus seemed to be the logical thing to do. 

My guess is that he thought he was setting in motion the means for Jesus to declare himself as King and for Israel to rebel against Roman rule.

Things didn't turn out as planned.

I think it is important to remember that Judas wasn't the only one to betray Jesus that night. 

When push came to shove, when Jesus clearly revealed that there would be no fight to prevent his capture, the disciples scattered.  Two disciples follow from a distance, but one of those disciples, Peter, denied knowing Jesus three times.

Before we judge these first disciples too harshly let us remember we too have betrayed Jesus. Like Peter, we too have denied Jesus.  We are not that much different.

How have we betrayed Jesus?

We can focus on our sin, but there are also more subtle ways we betray and deny Jesus. 

We, like the disciples, often look to politics to usher God's Kingdom into the world. We adopt ways of living that is conformed to the ways of the world rather than following Jesus. We pursue a life that is filled with busy-ness and eats up our resources so which prevent us from being generous with the gifts God has given to us. 

Romans 5:8 says: But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (NLT) 

To be sinners means, not only have we  broken of God's law, but we are also God's enemies, traitors of His Kingdom.

With this background of betrayal and treachery, how did Jesus respond to his disciples?

Matthew 26:26-29 reads:

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. (NLT)
In the face of betrayal and treachery of his creation, his disciples, and his closest friends, Jesus paused and declared that he was making a new covenant.  He announced that was not abandoning them to Satan, sin, and death.  Jesus made a promise, sealed with his  blood and death, that no matter who we are or what we have done, we can be numbered among God's people and be counted as loyal citizens of His Kingdom.

This is why I believe communion is an important of our reflection on the darkness, the sin, the treachery, the agony, and the death associated with Good Friday. 

Not only does communion remind us of Jesus' commitment, but it also provides us with an opportunity to declare our loyalty to him.

My prayer is that today you will consider the ways you have betrayed Jesus. But don't stay there. Ask Jesus for forgiveness, declare your commitment to him, and seal your promise to him through taking the Lord's Supper.

Communion is the reminder that God's faithfulness is greater than our betrayal.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Living With Real Faith

{Matthew 7:21-23; NLT}

21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ 

Church families are always interested in increasing their attendance.  This is a good concern to have.

The book of Acts several times records the number of people being saved.  Numbers show us that people are responding to the Gospel.

While numbers are important, they are not what is of ultimate importance. Remember, church attendance and a confession of faith doesn’t make a person a disciple of Jesus.

What is the most important thing for churches?

Jesus gave his followers the task of making disciples. Disciple making is the primary purpose for the Church.

Disciple making is hard work.

Some people understand the truth of the Gospel, it makes sense to them, but somewhere along the line a disconnect happens. The truth which makes sense in their heads never makes it to their hearts. While they agree with what Jesus taught, they don't live the truth.

To be a disciple of Jesus requires more than verbal acknowledgement of the truth. Disciples are to become like their Teacher. Jesus was faithful to his Father’s will. 

Faithfulness is a key part to being a disciple.

I find it interesting that the false disciples Jesus mentioned in the passage above were able to do extraordinary stuff. They proclaimed a word from God (prophesying), cast out demons, and performed miracles of healing.

It would be very hard to call a person who could do such things a false disciple.

In my mind these would be signs that they had a close relationship with God—that they were the genuine article.

I think the truth Jesus wanted his followers to understand with this teaching is that these things are not the evidence of a true disciple.

I don’t know how it is possible to fake those great accomplishments without having a relationship with God, but I do know that it is easy to fake the public side of ministry. It is easy for me to wow people with a great sermon, to write words that reflect Biblical teachings, and to have a “correct” theology to make the people at church believe that I know my Bible.

It is possible to go through ministry without real faith in God.

Real faith makes us step out of our comfort zone to do the things that need to be done. 

Real faith surrenders our lives to God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. 

Real faith is intentional about making changes to our life styles.  

Real faith is seen in our behavior. 

What makes a person a Christian is not a flourishing public ministry or correct theology, but a Christ-like life of faith. This faith is often expressed through our love for other people.

How does this truth apply to you and me?

We need to approach this passage as a warning for us.

Ask your self questions like:
  • Am I too wrapped up with what other people think about me? 
  • Do I put on a spiritual or religious mask in front of certain people so they will think I am a good Christian person? 
  • Is part of my identity derived from being the spiritual person everyone talks about?

Being a follower of Jesus isn’t about doing “religious” activities and making other people believe that we are “spiritual” people.

Being a follower of Jesus is about aligning our lives with God’s will, being guided by the Spirit, and living a life of faith and love.

This is how we get to know Jesus, and it is how Jesus gets to know us.

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...