7 WAYS TO MESS UP!

The disciples failed that much–in one chapter.  Kids make messes. That is part of what they do–naturally. Then they grow up. When the disciples got it, they really got it. So will you! Don’t be discouraged when you mess up, but grow from it. Failures are not final if you learn from them. This was their debut. Jesus “sent them out to proclaim the kingdom and to heal” (Luke 9:2). But…

1  THEY DIDN’T HAVE FAITH FOR A MIRACLE.

Jesus had plans to feed the multitude–they didn’t. “We have no more than five loaves and two fish–unless we are to go and buy food for all these people” (Luke 9:13). Philip even got out his calculator to prove it couldn’t happen (John 6:7).They knew how much they lacked, not how much Jesus had. And even after Jesus fed the crowd, they still didn’t have faith the next time around. Jesus marveled at two things–great faith and the lack of it. Upgrade your faith monitor!

2  PETER SPOKE OUT OF TURN.

“‘Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah’–not knowing what he said” (Luke 9:33). Peter, if you don’t know what to say–don’t! He was comparing Jesus to these two great men. When they disappeared, it was time for the Father to speak, and He knew what to say: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” The Son of God dwarfs all other heroes. Listen!

3  THE DISCIPLES COULD NOT CAST A DEMON OUT.

Jesus didn’t say, “I understand; this is a tough one.” He said, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?” (9:41). Jesus expects a fight with the darkness and knows we can win it. Believe–and go for it!

4  THEY DID NOT UNDERSTAND SUFFERING.

“And they were afraid to ask him…” (45). Jesus spoke about his suffering and death many times, and it went over their heads. They were thinking glory, not gory. Peter was even bold enough to rebuke Jesus for speaking about death: “This shall never happen to you,” because Peter didn’t want it to happen to himself. But it did–and he was ready for it!

5  THEY ARGUED ABOUT GREATNESS.

They were in the presence of greatness, and they were still trying to climb the ladder. Jesus had to remind them that “he who is least among you all is the one who is great” (48). It’s not how high you can get but how low you can go!

6  THEY STOPPED A FOLLOWER WHO WASN’T IN THEIR BAND.

Call it sectarianism: our group is better than yours. “I am of Apollos.” Jesus encouraged them to be inclusive rather than exclusive. An embrace works better than a stiff-arm. “The one who is not against you is for you” (50).

7  JAMES AND JOHN WANTED TO CALL DOWN FIRE.

Judgment is not the first thing that comes to mind for Jesus in the face of rejection. It is for some of his followers. God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked…” (Ez. 33:11). Mercy wins over judgment. Sure hope you learn well when you mess up. (Thank you, Dave Heinrich, for the insights that led to this study!)

6 THINGS ON MY “NOT TO DO” LIST!

Yes, I have a “to do” list. Almost as effective as my “not to do” list.

1  I WILL NOT BADMOUTH THE GOVERNMENT.

President Trump was voted into office. He’s there to stay for a while. Our scriptural mandate is to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” (I Tim 2:2).

2  I WILL NOT BE DISCOURAGED.

I let discouragement in the door a few years ago, and self-pity came in the back door. Stayed for two weeks. Hard to get them out. When I face things with the potential to get me down, I lock the door to discouragement. Think John the Baptist and Elijah. When they gave in to discouragement, they said and did dumb things. People are counting on you. “Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Life gives us “good” reasons to be discouraged. God gives us more reasons to stay encouraged.

3  I WILL NOT HOLD ONTO MY MONEY AS IF IT IS MY OWN.

What I release comes back to me; what I hold onto I lose. “Give, and it shall be give to you…” If you need it more than me, you’ve got it (I John 3:17).

4  I WILL NOT SAY STUPID THINGS, like,

“This is a really bad time for a flat tire.” You don’t know; it may be a great time. The last two times with car trouble, I managed to hold my tongue and thank God. The first problem fixed itself. The second problem, a dangerous flat on the freeway. I was able to pull over. Started to change the tire with an ineffective jack. A young man joined me and without asking got his jack and changed my tire in twenty minutes. I pulled out $30 and said, “Thank you.” He said, “I am not taking any money. I didn’t stop for that reason.” I thanked him again, shook his hand and asked his name. He answered, “Muhammad.” I said, “Thank you, Muhammad,” and he hurried off.

5  I WILL NOT COMPLAIN.

I don’t control the weather, I live with it. I will not complain about weatherman, as if I could do better. I will not complain about the food, about the people I work with, the wife God has given me, the governor whose policies are different (God, forgive me). Complaining does damage and God NEVER blesses it. I will not complain about neighbors who don’t like what we are doing at the Ranch. I will bless them instead. (It’s working).

6  I WILL NOT THINK THAT GOD OWES ME A GOOD DAY.

I will not expect that because I am a follower of Jesus the day will go smoothly, people won’t try to take advantage of me, or that I won’t encounter material or relational issues. I will not assume that suffering is for backsliders. I will not expect that the challenges God gives me mean that it will be easy. Could be hard, but it will be good!

CONFESSING OUR SINS (part 2)

 

WHAT DO WE CONFESS?

What we have done wrong. “When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned” (Lev. 5:5). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). When my kids managed to moan, “I’m sorry,” I would always ask, “For what? Name it!”

WHAT IF WE DON’T CONFESS OUR SIN?

God’s conviction and discipline will get stronger. David wrote “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1,2). The opposite is true for the person who does not forsake his sin. He is living under judgment and His sin is inviting God’s disfavor.  “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

WHO SHOULD CONFESS?

First, those who are guilty. “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Matthew 3:6). Because they confessed their sins, they were forgiven. The Pharisees came to criticize, not to confess. They defended their innocence by virtue of their heritage, and John spoke a strong warning to them of the judgment of God. Second, those who identify with the guilty. “They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers” (Nehemiah 9:2).

WHAT DOES FORGIVENESS MEAN?

That the Lord does not count our sins against us. He treats us as if we have never sinned. We receive what we don’t deserve, and we don’t receive what we do deserve.

WHAT IS THE BASIS OF OUR FORGIVENESS?

The character of God and the work of the cross. David wrote, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1). When we sin against another person, we are also sinning against the Lord, the lawgiver and the standard of righteousness.

WHAT ABOUT CORPORATE CONFESSION?

Powerful! “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you…praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to their fathers” (I Kings 8:33-34).

WHAT LEADS TO CONFESSION?

Conviction. David wrote “When I kept silent [about sin], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’—and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5). David also said, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:3). Guilt is a thermometer. It doesn’t deal with our sin, but it tells us that something is wrong and needs to be dealt with. Conviction leads to confession, bringing forgiveness and blessing!

 

 

CONFESSING OUR SINS (part 1)

TO WHOM DO WE CONFESS?

WE CONFESS TO GOD.

Siin is an offense against God. Although David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, he wrote, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). Sin means breaking the law and holy will of God, so we are accountable ultimately to Him.

WE CONFESS TO THOSE WE HAVE WRONGED.

The prodigal said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Luke 15:21). We can forgive people whether they confess wrongs to us or not, but Scripture does tell us to acknowledge our faults to those against whom we sin (Matthew 18:15). And that means saying more than, “I’m sorry.” We name the sin. It is so important to confess that not to do so eventually brings church discipline. It is in this context that Jesus says, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (20). The presence of Christ is strengthened by walking in the light and denied by disunity.

Jesus regards this lifestyle of openness and brokenness with such importance that He places it as a priority for worship:  “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23,24). Worship is impaired when relationships are out of order. I remember Graham Cooke saying, “If you want to upgrade your worship, upgrade your relationships.” How true!

WE CONFESS TO ONE ANOTHER.

Walking in the light (I John 1:7) does not mean walking without sin, because it yields forgiveness. It means walking without defensiveness and claiming we don’t have sin (verses 6, 8, and 10). It means exposing the darkness of our hearts in appropriate ways with people to whom we are accountable. Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12), showing that confession and forgiveness have both a vertical and horizontal direction. When Paul’s preaching brought a revival in Ephesus, “many of those who believed came and openly confessed their evil deeds” (Acts 19:18). Luke adds that “in this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (20). Revivals often begin when conviction of sin is followed by public confession.Let’s do it, Church!

James wrote, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:15,16). Sin blocks the unity of the Spirit. Sin could have a part to play in the sickness, or it could keep the “two or three” from agreeing. So James urges the confession of sin to one another for effectual prayer. I wonder what would happen if we started our prayer meetings with this exhortation: “Confess your sins to each other.” Vulnerability releases grace. The more willing we are to be weak the more we will experience the presence of Christ in our fellowship and see the power of Christ demonstrated in our ministry! Amen!

IF YOU REALLY WANT TO LIVE, TRY DYING!

 

What do you see in the word “death”? Pain, decay, sorrow, suffering, darkness, separation, abandonment, grief, hostility, end, no. Not a happy word. People fear death, try to avoid it. Why wouldn’t we? It spells the end of all that we know. aw1

What do you see in the resurrection? Light, life, uncontainable joy, reunion, freedom, worship, pleasure, comfort, new beginnings, yes. Fact: there can be no resurrection without death. Had Jesus not submitted to death, He would not have experienced the resurrection. Avoid Friday and Sunday never comes.

Do you know what the hardest thing in the Christian life is?  It’s not witnessing to your relatives or teaching a boy’s confirmation class on Leviticus or serving on the budget committee of an a shrinking church—it’s dying. If you want to live, you need to learn how to die.

JESUS KNEW HOW TO DIE.

He said, “The Son of man came…to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). The disciples had a different agenda–living. They didn’t want to die. The first order of business from the cross was, “Father, forgive them.”  You don’t say that unless you know how to die. Paul knew how to die. He was coming under attack from the Corinthians, but he said, “Death works in us, but life in you” (2 Cor. 4:12).

THE DEATH OF JESUS WAS…

Public.  Jesus died outside the city walls, but it was close to town and on a public road.  The Romans did it that way to demonstrate their control and to shame criminals.   We don’t die by going off on a silent retreat to the desert.  We die with people.

Personal.  The arrows that stick most in our hearts are the personal ones that strike at our character, our motives, our aptitude.  We don’t react as much to those darts that go after our company or our car.  Listen to these jabs at Jesus:  “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!  Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God.’”  

Painful.  Jesus didn’t enjoy the cross, He endured it (Hebrews 12:2).  Somehow I expected dying to be noble and make me feel like Mother Teresa. Dying is hard–sometimes ugly.

Prolonged.  Jesus began dying from the time He was born.  He lived with the shame of an illegitimate birth.  He was rejected by His family, nation, its leaders, His disciples, finally by His Father.  

Preferred. He died by laying down his life.  He said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord (John 10:18).”  He was not a victim, because He chose the way of death.  

SO WHAT?

Maybe you are being given the privilege of going the way of the cross. So I’ll add one more P.  If you die like Jesus, it will be powerful, because people will not just be getting the best you can give—they will be getting God.

Sunday is as full of hope as Friday is deeply sad. Friday is an end; Sunday is a new beginning. Accept Good Friday and you get a gooder Sunday! So, if you really want to live–try dying!