Text: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Description: Grace is defined as “unmerited favor or unearned blessings.” In my experience grace (especially in this most recent season of grief) has become a benchmark of God’s presence. I see the grace of God and am then keenly aware of His closeness. In these times of the deepest pain, I find God to be the closest. It wasn’t until recently that I experienced the emotion and heaviness of being unsure if I was going to be able to bear something as I felt the pain of it was too great to bear. I knew I didn’t have the strength to even feel the weight of the burden, let alone carry it. But then I was reading the Bible one day and this verse just jumped off the page at me. Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord who daily bears my burdens.” I hadn’t realized the possibility of Him taking on the weight of what I carried. I knew I could go to Him and talk about it, I knew I could pour my heart out to Him; but up to this point, I don’t believe I understood just how completely He would carry my burden for me. Because of His great love, because of his sacrifice this has now allowed me the opportunity to exchange my burdens so that He takes on Himself the heavy weight I am feeling, and I receive the lightness of His burden because his love has carried it all.
Text: Genesis 2:20-23
Description: All things start and finish with God’s Word; we want the knowledge and revelation of who our God, our savior is, so that we can walk in His nature. God is not calling us to be mimickers, those who just copy, but He desires for us to be assimilators, those who have a full understanding. We were created in His image so that we would be those who reflect His character; It is our desire to know who God truly is so that we can then impart that knowledge to those who seek Him. We need to compare the places of our heart to God’s so that can see the places where we are ignorant and the places we are innocent. And He is revealed when we are ready to receive and then God’s nature becomes the stepping stones for our lives. This morning we will spend some time looking at what it means to assimilate God’s nature as we pursue holiness. Holiness is to be free of guilt even after having seen it all. To have no envy, lust, hate, or anger after having been through it all. Knowledge and revelation is not revealed in gardens, but the full revelation of God is when we come out of places of insecurities or difficulties, that is when we know who are savior is and when we can grasp the goodness of God.
Text: John 3:22-27
Description: There are two important things to remember about John the Baptist, he was sent by God to point to the Son of God. John preached and baptized to repentance, he declared openly and often that he was not the Christ but that there was One coming after him that was greater, that while he baptized with water, the One who followed him would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. As the gospels tell us, John was the voice crying in the wilderness, he was the witness, the forerunner, the one chosen and sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. He didn’t just make a way for Jesus, he led the way to Jesus, he wasn’t just the last of the prophets, in many ways he was the first of the apostles, he wasn’t just an oracle, he was also a witness. John didn’t just speak for God, he was also watching to see God. According to John’s own witness in John 1:32-34, when Jesus walked into the water to be baptized, John hadn’t known He was the Messiah, he said “I did not know Him.” The day Jesus walked into the water was a day like any other day for John, preaching, baptizing, waiting and watching, and then, in an instant, he saw what he had been watching and waiting for and his message changed from “There is one coming” to “He is here! Behold the Lamb of God!” What we discover today is that sometimes our traditions and expectations become so much a part of our identity that when we see what we have waited for we are unsure and possibly even unwilling, to let go, to move forward and to take hold of that which is set before us. John the Baptist had a clear message that was heard and believed by many, but when the fulfillment of his message came, many struggled to accept and rejoice over it because the Message looked a bit different than the messenger and they suddenly realized that to go with Jesus would mean they would have to leave from John. Today I pray that we will be convicted of the places where we are holding our traditions too tightly and challenged to release our own “John the Baptists”, the seasons of our lives in which God is preparing us for His plans and sustaining us with His promises, so that we can give thanks for what has been and press on into what has yet to be. This is the hard part that we all face multiple times, the only way to truly go with Jesus is to say goodbye to John.
Text: John 12:12-19; Luke 24:1-12
Description: The presence of Christ always creates tension, seeing Jesus as He is reveals our hearts as they truly are and then requires us to respond to both His majesty and our fragility. This tension may have never been higher than the hours after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. John writes that many that witnessed this miracle, believed in Jesus as the Messiah while others went back to Jerusalem and told the high priests and Pharisees what they had seen. That witness led to the religious leaders gathering together and deciding that to preserve their “comfortable captivity”, to keep their way of life, hold together their ambitions and not change their expectations they would have to kill Jesus. While at Bethany all the tension of Jesus’ presence came crashing together. After a meal that honored Jesus for what He had done in Lazarus’ life, Mary, came and took a bottle of expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus, anointing His head, running all the way down to His feet. John wrote, the fragrance of the perfume, the resonance of Mary’s worship filled the entire house, everyone present was affected by Mary’s action. Mary decided that Jesus was more precious than her greatest possession, Judas decided that his greatest possessions, meaning his hopes, his plans, his pride and his expectations, were greater than Jesus. Mary poured everything out, Judas pulled everything back. According to Mark’s gospel, it was in this moment that Judas decided to betray Jesus. What I don’t believe either of them knew was that Mary and Judas were both preparing Jesus for the cross but one was doing so in faith and the other was doing so in rejection; the tension of Christ’s presence always leads to surrender or denial, there is no neutral when it comes to Jesus. Today we will take our time together and discuss Jesus’ ride to Jerusalem and His rise from the Tomb. There is much that happened in the last week of Jesus’ life, but the bookends, the Sunday of the Triumphal Entry and the Sunday of the resurrection hold everything else together. This morning I pray that we will see that when our expectations lead to disappointment it is often only because we have been expecting much less than the resurrection.
Text: John 11:45-12:19
Description: This morning, because we are using a very large text we are not going to read it all together, rather I’m going to refer you to different pieces as we go through it. Generally, on Palm Sunday we concentrate solely on Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, we see Him seated on the colt of a donkey as the crowds wave palm branches, place their coats on the road in front of Him and sing “Hosanna!” Today we will make Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the destination rather than the focus of our journey because that’s exactly how John treats it in his gospel. We won’t get to the Triumphal Entry until next week as we discuss Jesus’ ride to Jerusalem and rise from the Tomb, what I pray we see today is that the Triumphal Entry was not merely the beginning of Jesus’ march toward the cross, it was the direct outcome of His raising Lazarus from the dead, the Sanhedrin’s decision to cling to what they were accustomed to and Mary’s extravagant response to Jesus’ love. I pray that we can see through this passage that the presence of Christ creates tension that always leads to either denying or following Him.
Text: John 3:16-21
Description: Last week we started this passage by discussing the contrast between love and condemnation. John 3:16 is, in many ways, our foundation for the gospel. We know this verse, we love this verse and we need this verse. It reveals God’s character, that His actions, all of them, flow from His love. It reveals that God’s love is not a feeling He has for us; love is who He is. God does not feel love, He chooses it, He embodies it, He exudes it. God gave His only begotten Son because God’s love gives. The love of God is selfless, sacrificial, generous and undeserved. We can’t earn God’s love which is good news because it means we cannot lose God’s love. Anything that must be earned can be lost but that which is given freely can be held onto tightly, it is a reflection of the Giver not the receiver. God loves and God gives, these two truths are so tied together that we must learn that everything that God gives is love. The next verse is used to change our perspective. John writes “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” In many ways, this verse needs to always stand with the previous. God so loved the world that He gave His Son so that the world, meaning everyone, would have the opportunity to receive everlasting life but God did not send His Son into the world to bring condemnation. God has no part in condemnation, it is not His will (God wills that none would perish), it is not in His character (mercy triumphs over judgment) and it is not in His desire (God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked). Jesus did not bring condemnation with Him to those who would reject Him; He brought love to those who were already condemned. Jesus did not bring a choice to the neutral, He brought freedom to the already enslaved and deliverance to the already bound. This morning we will move further through this passage and see that light and darkness contrast each other in the exact same way that love and condemnation do. You cannot use the fear of condemnation to somehow inspire love and you cannot use the power of darkness to cause someone to run to the light. Today my prayer is that we will learn that darkness is not our sinful actions but darkness is the shame and fear that cause us to hide from God and that the light that exposes us shines only to heal us because God only exposes what He desires to heal.
Text: John 3:16-21
Description: One of my favorite things about teaching and preaching is to take a passage of Scripture that is familiar and to look at it more closely than we’ve looked before. It’s never my desire to find something new or to uncover some yet to be discovered revelation but rather to take what we know and to build upon it, to dig into our foundations and fortify them further, to be sure that we have not confused familiarity with intimacy and to remind us that when it comes to the Word of God there is nothing common, basic or anything less than beneficial. Today this will truly be tested as we look at what is probably the most familiar verse in all the Bible, John 3:16. We know this verse, we love this verse, we need this verse. My goal this morning is not to change what any of us knows or believes but to remind us of a God who loves to the point of giving, who has the power to judge but chooses to abound in mercy and who generously provides light for all those trapped in darkness. I hope today’s message will be like a married couple who chooses to renew their wedding vows, it’s not a fresh start, it’s an affirmation of commitment, a reminder to each other of where we started and how far we have come and a declaration to those watching that much has changed but nothing is moved. I pray that we will see the beauty and majesty of Jesus as this passage reveals the contrast between love and condemnation.
Text: John 3:1-15
Description: John’s gospel is a journey that begins by declaring the truth of who Jesus is and then, from that declaration leads us through Jesus’ life, not to prove Him to be God, but to teach us what God is like, His character, His heart, His plans and His purposes. This morning I want us to see that everything that everyone has said about Jesus in the first 2 chapters of John builds to what Jesus will say abou...t Himself in John 3. Today we discover that the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, that revealed to us the glory of God and walked in the fullness of grace and truth, did all of it so that we would surrender to Him as our Redeemer, so that He could do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and so that He could lead us to the relationship that we were all created to have. This morning we begin to learn that redemption is the outcome, it is what happens when God begins to answer our prayer that His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Everywhere redemption has occurred heaven has touched earth because that’s what redemption is, it’s not when men get to God, it is when men believe that God has come to them. Nicodemus had a simple question that all men have had and most continue to have, “How can these things be?” “How can we be redeemed? What must we do to taste of this great gift of redemption?”
Text: John 3:9-13
Description: In John 8:32 Jesus said “the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32, together say “Then Jesus said to the Jews who believed in Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus was talking to people who believed in Him, to people whom the Father had revealed Jesus’ identity as the Messiah the same way He had revealed it to Peter, Jesus was speaking to disciples. In today’s text, we see Jesus leading Nicodemus toward freedom by beginning to reveal and establish truth. This morning we will begin to deal with a very necessary topic, what do we do when truth doesn’t just offend our senses, but begins to disrupt our lives and demand that we change our thinking? How do we respond when God begins to say things that are not just hard to understand but even painful to hear? Sometimes, on the way to setting us free, the truth must first make us uncomfortable, change our understanding and break our ways of doing things, sometimes the first thing the truth must free us from is us.
Text: John 3:3-11
Description: John 3:3-11 is a passage we tend to rush through because we hear “you must be born again” and we assume we already have all the understanding we need. But there is beauty in the Scriptures being the active and living Word of God because that means each time we hear it, there is more to be heard. That even the lessons we have already learned have more depth to them, which is why we have to allow the Spirit to teach us more fully what is being said. When Jesus told Nicodemus “you must be born again” He was telling him that “you must be born from above.” Jesus' desire for Nicodemus and for all of us is that we would enter the Kingdom of God and that we would known His character. Sometimes though God has to let us face our fears so we can know and understand that He is greater. He has to allow us to feel our hunger so we can know that it is not bread that sustains us, but it is He who gives us life and provides for our needs. We have to get to the place of wanting the deep, long work of God in us instead of an instant change. God offends our senses so He can change our perspective and we need to learn to embrace discomfort, so God can take us to places we have never been before.