Lifelines:

Their mom, no doubt, had the best of intentions but little understanding of what she wanted (Matthew 20:20-28). She wanted the best seats in the house for her boys. That request agitated their contemporaries but provided a teaching opportunity for the Lord. True greatness in the eyes of God is far different than the way that we see it. It was show and tell time. He not only taught; He demonstrated.

Jesus came to serve. That is unnatural. In fact, it is supernatural. The One who put it all in motion to begin with did not come to be catered to by His own creation. Human models will never convey such a system, but this does not originate in a board room. This is an eternal perspective, and that turns everything on its head. Servants are at the top of the pecking order. Slaves shine brightly. God the Son showed it. He did not just pay lip service. He led the way. Watch Me. I will show you.

He gave His life. His concern was not self-fulfillment but self-sacrifice. He exchanged His place in glory (John 17:5) for a manger. Born among the animals and growing up as a carpenter’s son is hardly the lifestyle of the rich and famous. It is more like that of the poor and anonymous. That anonymity would not last long. He turned heads in His preteen years with His depth of understanding (Luke 2:47). Little did they know that He was a Savior in a kid’s body. In less than two decades he would be executed. That is why He was here.

He came to offer Himself. Sin had snarled up the creation. The crowning achievement of the Creator had been tarnished beyond recognition. Sinners were held hostage by an inhuman master, and the bounty had to be paid before the condition turned eternal. The wages of sin, you know. Liberation from the death sentence was no small matter. Nothing short of the perfect sacrifice would do, and He was on a mission to offer just that. Kidnap victims need the ransom to be paid. He picked up the check.

It is as natural as breathing for a mom to want the best for her kids. That quest for prominence for the two sons of Zebedee opened everyone’s eyes to a new reality, a different standard by which to measure our existence. Servitude and sacrifice just like Jesus are what constitute true greatness. It is a rare combination that few will embrace, but God is saving a seat for those who do.

Call to Praise scripture: Genesis 1:1-2

His word on it: John 1:1

Sermon: “In the Beginning”

Sermon: Reaching The Pinnacle

Mike HinrichsMike Hinrichs – Reaching the Pinnacle

Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB

and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Luke 6:40 NASB

“A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.

Luke 11:1 NASB

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”

Matthew 13:10-11 NASB

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.

Matthew 13:36 NASB

Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

Matthew 17:14-19 NASB

When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. “I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?”

1 John 4:7-8 NASB

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 5:1-3 NASB

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 NASB

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

2 Thessalonians 1:5-8 NASB

This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Lifelines:

Prayer punctuated the significant events in the life of Jesus. At His baptism, heaven opened as Jesus prayed (Luke 3:21-22). The distinctive components of the unified deity were evident. The Son prayed. The Holy Spirit descended. The Father spoke.

Time alone in communication with His Father was obviously important. He made it a regular practice (Luke 5:16). He journeyed up the mountain to spend such a time before He selected His apostles. He was there all night before He chose a dozen men (Luke 6:12-13). They would occupy a central role not only in church history but also in world history. Their task was global with eternal implications. Before He picked He prayed.

It was a far different trip up a mountain when He took along three apostles. His appearance changed. His cohorts did, too. He was conversing with historically impressive figures from centuries before. Peter wanted to build, and a voice wanted him to listen. It all began as Jesus prayed (Luke 9:28-36).

The first time that Jesus ever spoke with His apostles about the church is recorded in Matthew 16. In that conversation, He shared insights into what was to come. He would build it and possess it. It would be unstoppable. Luke offers one detail that Matthew does not. The discussion began while Jesus was praying (Luke 9:18). We should not be surprised.

At His baptism. Before picking His apostles. On the Mount of Transfiguration. In His opening remarks clearly speaking of the church. All of these came at times of prayer for the Lord. It occupied a central place in His life, as it did for the early disciples.

The twelve had dwindled to eleven. Judas was gone. Jesus had ascended. They waited, and as they did they prayed. They gathered with about 120 others and persisted in it (Acts 1:12-15). They sought the Lord’s direction in choosing a replacement for the betrayer (Acts 1:24). The church continued to do the same (Acts 2:42). They literally shook the world by praying (Acts 4:31).

The evidence is obvious. Praying matters. The Son of God regularly retreated for time to do so. The early Christians were dedicated to it. Paul regularly wrote about it. His advice? Do not ever stop (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Jesus advised by way of parable to be relentless in it and never allow discouragement to stop us (Luke 18:1ff). There are reasons for such an admonition.

Saturday begins our forty days of prayer to start 2011. Decisions and decisive moments start with praying. Remember, He is able to do much more than we can ask or even think (Ephesians 3:20). Now, let us pray.

Call to Praise scripture: 1 John 4:7-13

His word on it: John 13:35

Sermon: “Reaching the Pinnacle”

Lifelines:

Sin is a gruesome burden with horrible consequences. It weighs heavily on our mind. It drives a wedge between us and the One who loves us with an unparalleled passion. We are left alone, floundering to cope with that excruciating load. No one can stand beneath its crushing weight, and there is no assistance. Sinners stagger to the finish line only to discover that they have not seen anything yet.

If this life is a tormented mess, eternity is even worse. Continuous suffering. Fire. Intense, unimaginable darkness. Concentrated agony. Words scarcely touch the fringe of just how horrible it will be. Misery till death, then never ending horror having been flung far away from the presence of God. A never ending stream of days and nights in unspeakable conditions. That is the payoff for unforgiven sin.

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).” Truly, those are the words of an angel. If ever there was a message that is needed in a world marred by sin’s carnage that is it. He will save! It echoes with hope, especially when delivered by such a messenger. The potential for deliverance, for redemption, for a better tomorrow, for salvation tugs at our hearts. It draws us to the only one capable of such a dramatic rescue. This is not just another child. No, this is the Son of God.

Christians have grabbed hold of that deliverance with both hands and a whole heart. Like David, we plead for a good scrubbing (Psalm 51:2, 7, 10) and get it (Acts 15:8-9, 1 Peter 1:22). Christians enter into a wondrous covenant with God characterized by forgiveness (Matthew 26:28). We begin each new week with a reminder of that indescribable blessing (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 11:23-32). It also brings with it a grave responsibility.

Jesus taught disciples to pray (Matthew 6:5-15), and within those instructions He included this sober warning, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions (Vss. 14-15).” It would be a note that He would sound more than once. The forgiven must forgive. His covenant conditions mandate it (Colossians 3:12-13). That is part of the responsibilities that Christians have. We must not let Him down. Not now. Not ever.

Call to Praise scripture: Luke 6:31-36

His word on it: 1 Timothy 1:5

Sermon: “Loving the Unlovable”

Sermon: A God-Centered Life

Mike HinrichsA God-Centered Life – Mike Hinrichs

Deuteronomy 8:1-2 NASB

“All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord   swore  to give  to your forefathers.  “You shall remember all the way which the Lord   your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

Romans 2:28-29 NASB

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.  But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Luke 8:11-15 NASB

“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.  “Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.  “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.  “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.  “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

Romans 10:8-10 NASB

But what does it say? “The word is near you  , in your mouth and in your heart  ”–that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,  that if you confess with your mouth Jesus  as  Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;  for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

Ephesians 1:1

Romans 2:1-5 NASB

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.  And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.  But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same  yourself,  that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

2 Chronicles 36:11-13 NASB

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.  He did evil in the sight of the Lord   his God; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the Lord  .  He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar who had made him swear  allegiance  by God. But he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord   God of Israel.

Acts 8:34-37 NASB

The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please  tell me,  of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?”  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.  As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”  [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]

Colossians 2:9-12 NASB

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,  and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;  and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;  having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Deuteronomy 30:6 NASB

“Moreover the Lord   your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord   your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.

1 John 5:3 NASB

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

Romans 6

Lifelines:

There is an ancient proverb which says that the person who returns from a journey is not the same as the one who left. That is certainly true in the case of Peter, James and John when they trudged up that mountain with Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8). They saw and heard things that no one else ever has. A vision of the Lord opened their eyes and ears in a whole new way.

Jesus changed right before them. His face took on the radiance of the sun. His clothes matched it, bright as a hundred watt bulb. He was in conversation with Moses and Elijah. What a scene! It so impressed Peter that he wanted to do something to commemorate the moment. His idea? Tabernacles. How about three of them? God’s thoughts? Very different: listen and learn.

Do you have any idea who this is? Moses was a man of significance. How many other people has God conversed with from a flaming shrub? He had been the man to lead the Israelites out of slavery. He was entrusted with the Ten Commandments. Quite a guy was this Moses, but he was not in the category with this one. And Elijah’s resume ends with a journey to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2). Impressive, but nothing like the one beside him. “This is My beloved Son.”

Jesus knew no missteps. It was always His plan to please His Father (John 8:29). He surrendered His life for the greater good. He swapped His place in glory for the servant’s quarters. He washed feet and sweat blood. He lived and died so that we might die and live. Moses was admirable. Elijah was noteworthy. But this one, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased…” He is in a whole other class.

His words change destinies. They alter the course of human events. They raise the dead. No one has words that can compare. They came from the Father (John 12:49). Jesus spoke them and passed them on to the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15) who in turn revealed them to humans who wrote them down. Now they are in our hands. God created and shaped the world by means of speaking (Genesis 1). Now His message has come to us. Every time we open the Bible it is a trip up that mountain. Don’t forget the voice from the cloud. “Listen to Him.”

Call to Praise scripture: Deuteronomy 6:4-9

His word on it: 1 John 5:3

Sermon: “A God-Centered Life”

Sermon: The Infinite Love of God

Mike HinrichsThe Infinite Love of God

Romans 8:31-32 NASB
What then shall we say to these things? If God  is  for us, who  is  against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

1 Timothy 2:1-6 NASB
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties  and  prayers, petitions  and  thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,  for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God,  and  one mediator also between God and men,  the  man Christ Jesus,  who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony  given  at the proper time.

Titus 2:11-13 NASB
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,  instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,  looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,

1 John 2:1-2 NASB
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;  and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for  those of  the whole world.

Psalm 34:8-14 NASB
O taste and see that the Lord   is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! 
O fear the Lord  , you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want. 
The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord   shall not be in want of any good thing. 
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord  . 
Who is the man who desires life
And loves  length of  days that he may see good? 
Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit. 
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

Philippians 4:19 NASB
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 7:7-11 NASB
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

Romans 8:35-39 NASB
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written,
“For   Your sake we are being put to death all day long  ;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered  .”
  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 10:27-28 NASB
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

Galatians 3:27 NASB
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Lifelines:

There is extraordinary power in the gospel, so much that it can save a soul (Romans 1:16).  Regardless of history or heritage, anyone who has the faith to embrace that eternal message will be saved.  There is little wonder that Jesus sent the disciples into the entire world with it and its remarkable capacity to transform sinners into saints.

Sinners find themselves in a dilemma that they cannot solve.  At least, from the human side it is a problem without a solution.  People choose to sin, and as soon as they do the consequences begin to pile up.  Alienation from God.  Spiritual suicide.  Guilt.  Hopelessness.  Sin promised all and delivered nothing.  We want to escape the all-seeing eyes of God.  We cannot.  We try to hide and fail.  The conscience drives us away from what we need most, the Lord.  Only He can resolve this.

Jesus came in search of lost folks (Luke 19:10).  As unappealing as they may be, that is who He was seeking.  What a mission!  To leave the glory of heaven and plunge into this old sinful world is a task that defies description.  He relinquished equality with God (Philippians 2:6-7) to take on an assignment that would lead Him through humiliation, degradation and a brutal execution.  In so doing, He extended to all humanity for all time the possibility of forgiveness.  Sin’s devastation met its match.

It is a way back into the family.  The guilty verdict that we deserve is no longer inevitable.  The wrath of God has been quenched.  Adoption is an option.  Reconciliation is an alternative.  A spiritual resurrection awaits anyone who chooses to place himself in the hands of the only one who can perform such a miracle.  Many can take a life, but only one can raise the dead.  He did.  He can.  He will.  Now, that is good news.

And that is what the gospel is all about.  It is the best possible news and we have it in ours hands.  Sin-smashed people need it, and they do not even know it.  Most will reject it.  The god of this world is a master of deceit, and he has blurred their vision (2 Corinthians 4:4).  In some cases, he has poked their eyes out.  Our sight should be crystal-clear, though.  The lost need the gospel, and we have it.  Pray for workers.  Then, be one.     

Call to Praise scripture:  Romans 8:35-39

His word on it:  1 John 4:19

Sermon:  “The Infinite Love of God”

Lifelines:

Their problems ran far deeper than eyes could see.  They talked a good game.  To the casual observer they presented a suitable picture.  In fact, gamblers would have bet that they were righteous.  They did everything to indicate as much, and they made sure that everyone noticed.  A superficial look would never have detected how deeply they were infected.

The probing eyes of the Lord saw right through their actions.  It was clear in their misuse of Scriptures.  They had rigid rules and regulations that were not determined by the word of God.  They clung tenaciously to their traditions but held the principles of the Lord with a loose grip.  If ever one came in conflict with the other, theirs won out.  This was a clear indication that something much more fundamental was amiss.

There were vertical and horizontal consequences.  It tainted their family relations and rendered their worship null and void.  Their teaching was all wrong which leads us to the root of the problem.  They had a heart condition.  As religious as they may have looked and sounded, they were far removed from God at their core (Matthew 15:1-9).  They were strict but wrong, and that had far-reaching implications.

It is a common thread that runs throughout Scripture.  The heart must be a top priority.  God and His word are both scrutinizing ours.  The Pharisees and scribes made a bad miscalculation when they focused on the externals without paying attention to the internals.  Hypocrite is the word that Jesus repeatedly used to describe them (Matt.23).  Good show.  Bad heart.  It is a problem at the depths.

The Jews on Pentecost asked a question that altered everything (Acts 2:37).  They were told what to do and why (:38).  It all started when they heard about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ which set off a chain reaction that began at their ears, pierced their hearts and changed their lives.  The seed will do that when it lands on good soil (Luke8:15).

When we allow the word of God to do its work, it will reveal what is inside of us (Hebrews 4:12-13).  That is neither easy nor comfortable.  When it dissects us, we will see whatever is within whether it is good or bad.  Our intentions are unmasked and our thoughts are judged.  As agonizing as that can be, it is crucial that we take a good long look through the lens of Scripture.  Only then will we see us as God does, and He is looking.    
       

Call to Praise Scripture:  Luke 10:25-28

His Word on it:  1 Corinthians 13:13

Sermon:  “A Matter of Life and Death”