A couple years ago, Sonya and I were driving to a hike in the Buffalo River area. This area is the most beautiful place in Arkansas and the scenery is breathtaking. As we were driving back through the country, I noticed this church that was hidden behind weeds and brush. As you look at the picture, you see that it is overgrown, unkempt, and neglected. It sparked a thought within me. Where had the people gone and where had the passion for this country church escaped to? I realize that this is a rural church in a small community, but someone started it with a passion to reach people and now, where had that passion gone?
When looking at this picture, I am reminded of the words of John:
John 2:17 NLT, “Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”
In our society today we have a passion for a lot of different things. Sports, education, media and movies, food, relationships, and everything that brings us pleasure. Jesus was known, from the beginning of His ministry, for His passion for God’s House.
Here is a fulfillment of a prophecy,” Passion for God’s House will consume me.” This begs the question, “Does a passion for Gods House consume us?”. If we are passionate about things of this world, how much more should we be passionate about the things of God.
We should be passionate for God’s house in the following areas:
1. Passionate to GO to God’s House.
Are we faithful to His House or do we let other things keep us away? We must be careful that we don’t let things keep us from corporate worship.
2. Passionate to PRAY for God’s House.
How often do you pray for your church? If we belong to a church then we should pray for the church, its pastors and leaders. There is no greater way to impact the church than to pray for it. Pray equals power.
3. Passionate to GROW in God’s House.
There is an old saying that says we should bloom where we are planted. Are you planted and blooming in church? It is difficult to mature spiritually apart from the church. Now, this doesn’t mean that it is the church’s job to make you grow. You have to feed yourself. But growth happens at a greater pace when you are linked with other believers. Being taught and ministered to. You grow when you are feeding yourself at home and then blooming in a Bible teaching congregation.
4. Passionate to SERVE in God’s House.
If you belong to a church, are you serving in that church? Everyone is called to ministry. We must use our giftings to serve others. People who are passionate for Gods house serve in God’s House.
5. Passionate to BUILD God’s House.
When is the last time you invited someone to church? It is not solely the pastor’s responsibility to build God’s House, it is everyone’s. The pastor equips the saints for the work of the ministry and the saints minister. It means that every church member is a builder. Building by inviting and building by serving.
We all need to grow in these areas. Find where you are lacking and work diligently to grow in passion for God’s House. Let us be passionate for God's House and for the work of His Kingdom.
This morning, I woke up early to work on my message and as often happens, messages tend to steer a little different direction than I anticipate. In Jesus' resurrection visitation to His disciples, He commissions them by sending them to the world with the message of forgiveness and repentance. Since, Scripture interprets Scripture, I checked the cross references for this passage and their message of forgiveness was coupled with actually forgiving others themselves.
They had just witnessed the brutality of Jesus' crucifixion at the hands of the religious authorities and the Roman government. Jesus was commissioning them to go out and share the gospel with these very people and that would require that they learn to forgive them for their actions. The irony of this message is seen in the fact that the disciples were behind closed doors in fear of the people that had crucified Christ. There would have been some issues of, not only fear, but also the disciples holding the offense against those who had killed Jesus.
Then Christ tells them to preach forgiveness and repentance but also for them to forgive those to whom they preach. We are reminded of Jesus' words in the Gospel of Matthew.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:14-15 NLT
Jesus reveals that forgiveness is critical to us as well as the offender. Yet, that is easier said than done. In studying for Sunday's message, I came across a story about Corrie Ten Boom. She was a survivor of the Nazi Concentration camps and releasing forgiveness to her enemies had proven a challenge. This story is a powerful illustration for us and how we can forgive and let go of the offenses of others.
Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest.
"His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor," Corrie wrote, "to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks." "Up in the church tower," he said, nodding out the window, "is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down."
"And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force -- which was my willingness in the matter -- had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts."
For you and I to be able to forgive and let go of the offense requires that we quit ringing the bell. Quit rehashing the offense. Quit playing it over and over in your heart and mind. Give it to God and let Him help you, just quit pulling the rope on the bell of offense. Let go of the rope!
O Gracious God! This day signifies more to us than any other day. While we celebrate the resurrection every day, this Easter Sunday we recognize that this is what paved the way for all things. On Friday, the price was paid for our sins. Your precious Son shed His blood so that we might be redeemed. On Friday, the goodness of the Son of God was seen in that He breathed His last, so that we might be saved. As they laid Him in that tomb, the price was paid, our sins forgiven. Cleansing had come and this cleansing was once and for all. No more sacrifices, Jesus was THE sacrifice. The Spotless Lamb of God, took the sins of the world on Him.
Yet, that sacrifice on Friday had a tandem partner. The two go hand in hand. Side by Side. The resurrection on Sunday brought eternity to the sacrifice on Friday. When Jesus walked out of that tomb it signified so much more. His resurrection conquered death, hell and the grave. His resurrection, turned our death into life. Because He lives, we now have so much more in this life and the one yet to come. Because of Jesus' resurrection, we can have life. Life abundant. Eternal Life. Life forevermore. The Cross on Friday gave us access to You, Our Heavenly Father, and the resurrection on Sunday, gave us that access for all eternity.
O God! May this resurrection day be a day where we embrace that Eternal Life. Let this day be an awakening for all of us that because You have paid the price for us, we will introduce others to this great gift. On this resurrection Sunday, may we be filled with that same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead and let that Spirit empower us to bring others to You.
Thank you for the Friday and the Sunday. Thank you that Friday was Good and Sunday makes sure that goodness lives forever!
In Jesus Name. AMEN!
2,000 years ago was a day that lives in history books as the most brutal, torturous, and unjust day for an innocent man, who was killed for the claims He made. Only 33 years old, this man died a brutal death for claiming to be the Son of God.
He had raised the dead, made the lame to walk, caused the blind to see, and fed 5,000 people with just a few loaves of bread and a couple fish. He arrived in Israel in a way that was uncharacteristic. He was born of a virgin who had been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. His express purpose for such an incredible birth was that He would live a sinless life and take our sins on Him.
He was indeed the Son of God, but by claiming that title, He was arrested and tortured. His back was laid open by the Roman Flagrum. He was mocked and beaten beyond recognition. He was spit upon and His beard was ripped from His face. He was stripped naked and nailed to a cruel cross. That cross was hoisted in the air and there He hung for all the world to see.
From that cross, He looked over His mockers and haters and prayed, "Father, Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do!" He was offering forgiveness to the those who did not deserve it and it was the blood He shed that would be offered to cover their sins.
Possibly my favorite prophecy concerning the Messiah is found in Isaiah 53:12.
"I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels"
Friends, He bore our sins and interceded for us in our rebellion. He did that for you and me. To quote the old hymn, "Oh, What A Savior!" 2,000 years ago it would not have been called a Good Friday. But in 2019, it is a Good Friday because that fateful day secures salvation for all mankind.
There is a pain that is difficult to bear,
Some have said that I shouldn’t even care.
Let it go, forget about the wrong that was done,
But I remember it happened to me, more than just once.
It is ever on my mind and the wound breaks my heart,
It drove a wedge between us, it drove us far apart.
With the offender, I was counted as a friend,
How could they hurt me, over and over again?
Will the pain ever cease?
Will this hurt ever decrease?
If time really heals all wounds,
Then, why does this hurt seem so new?
But then I see a glimmer of hope, from one so pure,
With nails in his hands and feet, I think I see a cure.
He paid the price for my healing and for my hurt,
It is only His blood, through His suffering, that this will work.
So, I release my pain to the One who died for me
So that from this aching wound, I might finally be free.
The ideal life is in our blood and never will be still. Sad will be the day for any of us, when we become contented with the thoughts we are thinking and the deeds we are doing - where there is not forever waiting at the doors of our soul some great desire to do something larger, which we know that we were meant and made to do. -Elbert Hubbard-
The reason many people today are not satisfied or they are left feeling empty is because of the longing of the soul. Within us is the desire for more. Within in us is a craving to be something or to acheive something.
Yet, so many people feel it is the success of the world or what the world tells us success is that is important. We want to achieve, but that longing within us is the desire to be useful. I believe the longing within is not only to be important but to feel important. This means we want our work to count.
We want to live a life that does something significant and something that has an impact on the world around us. This is the reason so many become disenfranchised with life. We gain all that we set out to do but found it is not enough. This is the importance of doing something worthwhile for the soul.
We seek so hard to achieve in this world that we tend to neglect the soul's work or the Lord's work. The only thing that will last is serving the Lord and serving others. If you are to find fulfillment in life, it will only come by doing something without you at the center. When Christ is the center of all we do, life has more meaning.