Sunday, February 25, 2007

Jesus Loved God

Jesus Loved God


Gustave Dore was an European artist who lived during the middle of the 19th century. His art, much of it being religious, survives primarily as black and white engravings

As Gustave Dore was putting the finishing touches on the face of Christ in one of his paintings, an admiring friend stepped quietly into the studio. She looked with bated breath upon the painting.

Dore sensed her presence and said graciously, “Pardon, madam, I did not know you were here.”

She answered, “Monsieur Dore, you must love Him very much to be able to paint Him thus!”

Love Him, madam?” exclaimed Dore, “I do love Him, but if I loved Him better I would paint Him better!”

If we loved Christ better, we would indeed serve Him better. 1

During the next few minutes I want to look at the one who loved God the most – Jesus Christ.

Read: Luke 2:41-52


Trans: The passage can be divided into four movements, four sections, that help us understand Jesus' love for God.

  1. Jesus' Atmosphere

    1. The passage that we are looking at is unusual – it is the only passage in the New Testament that gives us glimpse at Jesus' childhood.

    2. I am a bit surprised though. You see if God had commissioned me to write a story about Jesus' childhood, I would not have been so silly as to include an incident where Jesus managed to scare the wits out of His parents.

    3. I mean, since Jesus was perfect, and I don't think any of us doubt that, I would want to show those who had never met him what a perfect child was like. Instead Luke chooses one incident that makes it appear that Jesus is a normal child. A child that sometimes did things his own way instead of his parents way.

    4. Jesus certainly knew what was expected of Him – His parents had been going to Jerusalem for years to celebrate the Feast of the Passover

(Ill.) Passover was one of the earliest feasts celebrated by the Israelites. It was a celebration of God's work in bring His people out of Egypt – specifically a reminder of the mercy God showed those who followed His instructions and painted lamb's blood on the door posts. For over 1400 years it had been one of the high points of the religious year for the faithful Jew. And it had been the practice of Jesus' family to make the trip to Jerusalem each Spring.

(Ill.) Many of us have regular plans for the holidays. Let me tell you of two of ours. We have dear friends in Kearney, NE. I have told you of Franklin Saltzgaber before – he was one of those prayer partners who met with me at a time when I was struggling with my Christian life. Franklin and Linda had another practice that made them special to us. Every Christmas, they opened their home to those who had no family in the area. Except for our kids, we had no family in the area – and Franklin and Linda invited us to join them for Christmas dinner. And they continued to do so ever after we moved away from Kearney. For ten years we became part of their family. More recently, we have established a new tradition – one which you have been part of – our annual trip to the United Methodist Congress on Evangelism. Family traditions are not new – and Jesus' family had them too.

    1. And Jesus's family's tradition laid the foundation for Jesus' growth. Year after year they made this trip to Jerusalem.

    2. It was this atmosphere that allowed Jesus to develop His love of God.

  1. Jesus is Absent

    1. Though the annual trip to Jerusalem was not unusual, the trip home was not.

    2. His parents had every reason to expect that Jesus would return with them.

    3. But, like many 12 year old boys and girls, He had a mind of his own.

    4. Mary and Joseph thought they had it under control – Jesus was most likely with the friends and relatives that had made the annual journey with them.

    5. But when Jesus started missing meals, they began to worry, and started asking around – and when they could not find Jesus, they went back to Jerusalem.

(Ill.) Perhaps they were like the mother I heard about recently who mother attended a service in a the large and crowded auditorium of a large megachurch with her little daughter, Mary. In some manner the two became separated.

The mother sent a note to the platform which was read aloud: “If there is a little girl named Mary Moore in the audience, who is lost, will she please raise her hand so her mother can find her.” No little girl raised her hand so the mother had the police searching the city for the child. Still not finding her, the mother came back and stood at the door of the auditorium as the people filed out. Among the last of them was Mary.

Her mother snatched her up, crying, “Where were you, Mary?”

“On the front row,” replied the little one.

“Didn’t you hear the man read the notice, ‘If there is a little girl named Mary Moore in the audience, who is lost, will she please raise her hand so her mother can find her?’“

“Yes,” said Mary, “I heard it.”

“Then why didn’t you raise your hand?”

“Why, Mother, it couldn’t have meant me,” said Mary, “for I wasn’t lost. I knew where I was.”2

    1. It is pretty obvious why Mary and Joseph went back – it was the only place where Jesus could be. But I do wonder why it took them three days to find Jesus in the Temple. I mean they knew more about Jesus than anyone, at that point. And yet it took them three days to find Jesus at the temple.

(Appl.) If the two people who knew Jesus best, the two people who knew more about where His heart lay took three days to find Jesus, should we be surprised that it sometimes takes us time to understand what Jesus wants of us?

  1. Jesus' Answers

    1. It did take three days – but they found Him.

    2. He was in the temple – and He certainly was surprised it took them so long to find Him. Jesus expected that His parents would know where to find Him, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Didn't you know that I would be home?

    3. But two things hit me as interesting – First, Jesus was sitting with the most scholarly Jews in Jerusalem. His parents found Him "sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." Even at this point, He was a serious student – listening to his teachers and asking them questions. It would have been fun to sit there with Jesus and listen in on those three days of conversations.

    4. But there was something else – look at the next verse. "Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers." Here is the other reason I would have like to be in that temple – to hear what answers Jesus was providing

(Ill.) Ronald Reagan once pointed out that "the answer to each problem is to be found in the simple words of Jesus of Nazareth, who urged us to love one another."3

    1. Here's the kicker – Jesus loved God. He spent his time learning more about Him and sharing what He knew. It was the focus of His discussions.

(Appl.) How often is Jesus the focus or our discussions?

  1. Jesus' Advances

    1. But even at twelve, Jesus was not done growing. In the last verse of passage this morning, we a wonderful picture of the growth that Jesus experienced, even as His love of God grew.

    2. "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Jesus was not static – he grew. If you look closely at this passage you will see that Jesus grew mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

    3. If Jesus grew, it makes sense that we also need to grow.

(Appl.) There is another lesson here – we have to let others grow as well. It is too easy to fall into the trap of expecting other Christians to be here (hands up high) and then being disappointed when we find they are someplace down here (move hands down). If Jesus grew and he was the only one to ever make it here, we need to let others be down here. And sometimes that is hard – life would be so much better if everyone were perfect. It would not even be so bad if everyone were perfect except me or you. But then it doesn't work that way. All of us are in here in the middle some where – and it is only when we let both ourselves and those around us live where God knows we live that we can be most happy.

Conclusion: Jesus did love God. If we are going to love like Jesus loved, we too need to love God.


1Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

2AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

3Federer, W. J. (2001). Great Quotations : A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced according to their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions. St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

At What Cost?

At What Cost?

The hymns To God Be the Glory, Blessed Assurance, All the Way My Savior Leads Me, and He Hideth My Soul remind us that it’s never too late to begin serving Christ. Some people start as children, others as teens or young adults. But Moses was eighty when God commissioned him, and Paul was middle-aged.

So was Fanny Crosby, author of the above hymns.

Fanny was born in a cottage in South East, New York, in 1820. Six weeks later, she caught a cold in her eyes, and a visiting doctor prescribed mustard poultices, leaving her virtually blind for life. Growing into childhood, she determined to make the best of it, writing at age eight: O what a happy soul I am! Although I cannot see, I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.

Fanny spent many years in New York’s Institution for the Blind, first as a student then as a teacher and writer-in-residence. Her career flourished, her fame swelled. She recited her poems before Congress and became friends with the most powerful people in America, including presidents.

But not until 1851 did Fanny met her greatest friend, the Lord Jesus. While attending a revival meeting at John Street Methodist Church in New York, she later recalled, a prayer was offered, and “they began to sing the grand old consecration hymn, ‘Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?’ and when they reached the line, ‘Here, Lord, I give myself away,’ my very soul was flooded with celestial light.”

Fourteen years later she met the hymnist William Bradbury who told her, “Fanny, I thank God we have met, for I think you can write hymns.” Bradbury suggested an idea for a song he needed, and on February 5, 1864, Fanny Crosby, seizing his idea, wrote:

We are going, we are going, To a home beyond the skies, Where the fields are robed in beauty And the sunlight never dies.

It was her first hymn, and she was forty-four. But by the time she reached her “home beyond the skies” fifty years later, she had written eight thousand more..1

Fanny Crosby gave all she had – I want to spend the next few minutes looking at what God wants us to give.


  1. Proportional Giving

    1. Much of the church has lot tract of the concept of "proportional giving."

    2. For the Jews who lived before the coming of Christ, it was the standard – it was the tithe. “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

“You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be 1food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.

    1. The giving of for the believers of the OT was to start with the tithe – the giving of 10% of their income to support the temple and the synagogue.

    2. The OT required a tithe of everything – if money was what a person had, that is what was tithed. But if it lands, flocks, herds, or some other commodity – it was expected to be tithed.

    3. The NT standard was a bit more relaxed – they asked all those who supported the church to give a proportion of the income -

    4. The beginning of the NT seemed to follow a similar pattern – but giving was was not a tenth, it was proportional. For some it was 5%, for some it would be 10%, but for others it would be 15 or 20%.

(Ill.) I was surprised to learn the average American gave 3.8% of their income in 2004 to various causes. What %age are you giving?

    1. There is a simple test to see if you are giving proportionally – as your income goes up or down, are you adjusting your giving? When you get a raise – do you increase your giving by a similar percentage? When your income goes down, do you reduce your giving by a similar percentage.

    2. Giving begins with a decision to give proportionally to our income.

  1. Offerings

    1. Early believers did not stop with proportional giving.

    2. They also made regular offerings over and above their tithe.

    3. The tithe was their regular and consistant giving – their offerings were to support the special needs that arose throughout the year that went beyond the expected expenses of the church or synagogue.

(Ill.) One pastor of a small church began the regular Sunday morning offering by saying, "I would like to remind you that what you are about to give is deductible, cannot be taken with you, is referred to in the Bible as filthy lucre, the love of which is the root of all evil."2

    1. There are lots of motives for responding to an offering – some of them good, some of them bad.

    2. But we must see the response to offerings as coming after whatever regular gifts we are making to the church.

  1. Everything

    1. Take a minute and close your eyes. Imagine walking in your front door. You take a look behind you to make sure your car has not left the driveway. Don't forget that it is not really your car – it is really God's car. Do you realize that the door belongs to God, but as you go in, you see your living room – all that furniture is not yours – it is God's. Then go into your kitchen – you go into your cupboard to make a cup of coffee. You see all that food in the cupboard – it, too, belongs to God. Then you turn around and glance at the shelf – look at all those pictures. There's your son, your daughter. Maybe a brother or sister or mom or dad. Do you realize that they belong to God, not you you.

    2. There is something really strange here – we talk about giving our tithes and our offerings. But in talking like this, we are missing an important point – and that is that everything we have, everything we call ours, is really God's.

    3. Psalm 24:1-1 reads: The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.

(Ill.) To see how well you understand this concept, think of the last time you miss-placed something – perhaps it was a piece of jewelry or an important document

(Appl.) So here is your assignment – as you return home this morning, as you go into your houses – look around. Remember that everything in that house is not yours – in fact it is all God's.

  1. Jesus Paid It All

    1. Tithing -- Offering -- Everything

    2. But there is another model of giving in scripture. It is a model that we cannot follow. It is a model that can never be repeated.

    3. Isaiah 53:4-6 reminds us the ultimate gift was given for us

Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,

and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

each of us has turned to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

    1. I am reminded of a hymn that we have only in our Celebration hymnal – Jesus paid it all

Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.


1Morgan, R. J. (2000). Real stories for the soul (electronic ed.) (132). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

2Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (350). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Home At Last

Home At Last!

Intro.: I have not bought a great many houses over the years.

  1. But I know that there is one step that must occur before I sign any final paperwork.

  2. That is the final walk through – checking to see that all lights work, no unexpected broken windows or holes in the wall, do all utilities work properly.

  3. Take a minute to look one more time at what God is preparing for us:

Read: Revelations 21:1-5


T.S. I want to look this morning at four characteristics of heaven.

  1. The first thing you will notice is its size.

    1. Jeremiah 31:37 makes it clear that there is no way to measure the size of heaven.

(Ill.) I remember one summer while we lived in Iowa. We made a trip to the Twin Cities and made our first stop at the Mall of America. It was an amazing experience to walk into this huge building and see four to five stories of stores. The lights, the colors, the people – all contributed to the atmosphere. You may or may not know that in the center of this mall is a major amusement park – Camp Snoopy. They had the expected range of rides – I especially liked the Log Plume ride. But you know what, regardless of how big that place was, someone has a set of blueprints which describe every inch of that space. Someone has measured it. They have used tape measures, yard sticks, and a slew of other tools to make sure that the Mall of America was built according to specifications.

    1. But heaven cannot be measured – yes it must hold us as believers, but it must also hold God. And God is infinite. Both His power and his knowledge are infinite. An infinite God can reside in an immeasurable heaven.

(Appl.) How do you respond to an infinite God? Words that come to mind include "awe", "speechless", or maybe, "fear". Whatever word you want to use, I hope that you realize that we do serve an infinite God. A God who has no limits, but who allows us to know Him.

  1. But then you notice that this is no ordinary home – this place is set aside for the King and His family.

    1. We spend much of our time thinking about heaven as our future home.

    2. Yet in doing so, we make a big mistake. You see, even as we wait for the day, heaven is already God's home.

    3. In Acts 7 Stephen is on trial for his faith. He eventually will be stoned for his faith in Christ, to be the first of many Christian martyrs. But in the meantime he is allowed to testify about that faith – and in his final speech he reminds his hearers and he reminds us that Heaven is my throne, and earth is the footstool for my feet.

      When heaven becomes our home, we will be entering what is already God's home.

    4. Because it is God's home, we might expect that, just as our homes express our character, so does heaven express God's character.

    5. Deuteronomy 26 is a reflection of Moses' instructions to the Israelites prior to their entering the promised land. Moses would not go with them, but he wanted to prepare them for their future home. Moses also prays and when he does, he says "Look down from your holy dwelling place in heaven ..."

    6. Heaven is God's place – and as such we should not be surprised to find that it is called "holy.'

(Ill.) Columbus christened the first island he landed on “San Salvador,” meaning “Holy Saviour,” and kneeling, prayed:

O Lord, Almighty and everlasting God, by Thy holy Word Thou hast created the heaven, and the earth, and the sea; blessed and glorified be Thy Name, and praised be Thy Majesty, which hath deigned to use us, Thy humble servants, that Thy holy Name may be proclaimed in this second part of the earth.1

    1. Even as Columbus recognized God's holy influence in heaven, so must we.

  1. God is the Lord of heaven

    1. God is in heaven – scripture also tells us He is Lord of heaven.

    2. Scripture says that heaven is God's throne, it tells us God reigns in heaven.

    3. God is in control – both here and in heaven.

    4. We may think that we are in control – and there are times that God allows us to make choices, but when we do, we also are responsible for the consequences.

(Appl.) I need to learn to pray, we need to learn, to ask that the Lord of heaven also might be Lord of my life.

  1. Heaven will be our home as well

    1. Heaven is not only God home, it will also be our home.

    2. That is not quite right. As believers, it is already our home, we just are not there yet.

    3. There are times when life seems out of whack. There are times when it seems that I don't fit in. There are times when it would be nice if life went a bit smoother – and then it doesn't.

    4. But you know what – I am not surprised. My citizenship is in heaven. My hope is not in this world, but in God's world.

    5. And for that I must wait till God is ready to take me home. But when he is, I am ready to go.

    6. I trust that you are as well.

    7. And when you are, you too will see what John saw

READ: Revelations 21:1-5


1Federer, W. J. (2001). Great Quotations : A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced according to their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions. St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

There Will Come A Day!

Intro.: As a teacher, I have developed a whole set of ways to fairly evaluate students.

  1. Of course, like most faculty members, I can write super questions – true/false questions are the easiest, then there are multiple choice questions. A bit harder to write are short answer questions. And then there is the feared essay question.

  2. But I am a professional educator – and that means I have come up with some very sophisticated methods of evaluating students.

  3. I mean, every teacher has their bag of tricks. For example, one of the things I can do when time is short and I have a big stack of papers is flip a coin – Heads, its a pass. Tails, its a redo.

  4. If I need a bit more variability in the grades I assign, I use a lessor known technique – the staircase method. I stand at the top of a stairway and let the papers fall. Those at the top are given higher grades. Or, to mix it up, those at the bottom are given higher grades.

  5. As you can see, I have come up with some very creative ways to finish each semesters work. Of course I don't tell students what I am doing – it would be like giving a copy of my final exam to students, it just is not done.

  6. In spite of my reputation around here, I am not nearly as bad as this might suggest.

Read: Revelations 20:11-14


Trans:God also has his ways of handling judgement – today I want to look at two principles that help us understand our role in judgement.

  1. Judgement is not our job.

    1. Jesus makes this clear when he reminds us, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt 7:1)

    2. We do have opportunities to judge. For example, last night as we arrived, we heard all kinds of stories.

(Ill.) One father came late. He told us that for the first time in his life he pulled his car over because the snow was so bad. He had to judge the weather, his car, and his own ability.

    1. But the difference was that he was not judging others.

    2. It is an easy trap to fall into

      • We each know how everybody else should behave

      1. he should have...”

      2. why didn't they...”

      3. I wish she would...”

      • These are all examples of holding someone responsible for something we wanted from them – something they may not even have known you (or I) wanted.

      • But it does get worse – we do it to ourselves as well

      • How many times have you said to yourself, “I should have...”

    1. So whether it is others or it be ourselves, Jesus' words come back - “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

  1. Judgement is God's job

    1. Really two parts

    2. The first is illustrated by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-45 where Jesus separates the Sheep and the goats.

      1. The first is based on what we do

      • How do we help others

      • How we love others

      • How we care for others

      • How we give to others

      1. But you know what

      • We can never do enough

      • We can never love enough

      • We can never care enough

      • We can never give enough

(Ill.) Think for a minute of the best person you know

  • maybe a relative

  • Billy Graham

  • Mother Theresa

  • some political leader

You know what – they, like us, are not good enough. They fall short of God's expectations for them. Romans 3:23 reminds us that “For all fall short of the glory of God.”

    1. But there is another standard

      1. That standard is found in Revelation 20:11-14

      2. It is the time of the final resurrection

      • Everyone will be judged

      • They will be judged by what they have done

      • But it was not what they have done that made the difference

      • What made the difference was that their names were written in the Book of Life.

(Ill.) You can write a check. You fill in the amount, the payee can be named. And the date can be entered. You can even give the check to the payee – but unless you have signed that check, the check is no good.

    1. In the same way, unless your name is in the Book of Life, you will find yourself on the wrong side of judgement.

    2. Let me accept a three step process for insuring that you are in the Book of Life:

A – Acknowledge that you are sinful – you do fall short of what God expects of you.

B – Believe in Jesus as your Savior, the one who took your penalty for sin

C – Confess that Jesus is your Lord

Three simple steps that you will spend eternity in with Jesus. Have you taken those steps