Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Tend to the inside first

Possibly as you read this, I am having a root canal done.  9:00 a.m. Friday.  Tooth 2-4.  I’ve often thought that if ever I were going to lose a tooth, it would be that one.  The root canal, I’m told, is what will help me not lose that tooth.  As I write this on Thursday, pain-free, I’m not wholly convinced!  But the endodontist is a professional.  I’ll trust him.

Apparently, the procedure will clear the roots of the tooth of nerves, pulp, and whatever else may be in there, and they will be filled with a rubber substance that will not break down.  It will clear out the inside, in order to preserve the outside.

Jesus talked about this from a spiritual point of view.  The Pharisees and teachers of religious law were terribly concerned about outward appearances, but were not dealing well with their inner lives.

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.  What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.  Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23.25-28, NLT)

It would be easy to use some sort of whitener to make the tooth look good, but if it’s dying on the inside, that’s not going to ameliorate my life in any way.  The same is true with our spiritual lives.  If we keep up appearances, but are dying on the inside due to spiritual malnutrition, that’s not going to be to our benefit.

Let me encourage you to tend to the inner life as a matter of first priority.  If you take care of your relationship with Jesus first and foremost, that will position you better to tend to other matters.

Biblical Messages

Unity Amid Diversity

Continuing from last week’s message, we look in this service at John 17.13-26, which contains Jesus’ desires for his people.  We often think about what Jesus wants *from* us, but in this message, we look at what Jesus wants *for* his disciples of all time, as he offers a deep prayer to the Father.

You can watch the whole service, or catch the message, which begins at 25:09.

Encouragement From The Word

Sowing seeds

One day, Jesus told his friends a story.  “A farmer went out to plant some seeds.  As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them.  Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow.  But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.  Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13.3-8, NLT).

When I was in Bible Society work, I often preached on this passage, because, as Jesus notes later in that passage, the seed is the Word of God, and I was in the business of promoting the reading, promotion and distribution of God’s Word.

It has another layer of meaning, though, too.

When we sow seeds of faith, we can’t always see immediate results.  It might take years for those seeds to take root and grow.

I’ve heard a few stories this week of people in whom much has been invested spiritually who are starting to bear fruit.  It’s exciting to watch, and exciting to hear these stories.

Here’s another example.  A few weeks ago, I was called to oversee a ‘celebration of life’ service for someone who had died.  I knew no one in the family at all.  In the conversation, I learned that the reason I was called is that a young person in their family has attended our summer Vacation Bible Camp.

Because our volunteers helped a child learn about Jesus while having fun, I now have an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with a group of grieving family and friends.

We have no idea what may happen when we sow seeds of the Word, seeds of faith.  Ultimately, that’s up to the Lord.  We may benefit in our own part of God’s vineyard, or some other congregation may benefit.  Either way, the Kingdom wins when we share faith.

Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (1 Corinthians 15.58b, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

God gives you more than you can handle

People often say that God will never give us more than we can handle.

Malarkey.

God gives us more than we can handle all the time!  The fact is, God never gives us more than he can handle through us.

There can be times when we feel overwhelmed.  I’ve been there, and I imagine you have been, too.  But as followers of Jesus, we do well to remember that he is in our corner.  In fact, he even prayed for our protection.

We tend to refer to “Our Father, who art in heaven…” as the Lord’s prayer, but that is a model Jesus gave his friends.  The real Lord’s prayer – the prayer that came from Jesus’ own heart – is in John 17.  And in the middle of that prayer, here’s what Jesus prays for his followers:

Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.  During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me” (John 17.11b-12a, NLT).

Take comfort!  As Jesus was preparing to go to the cross, dying and rising again, and ascending into heaven, he was asking the Father to protect us by the power of Jesus’ name.

Remember that, next time you find yourself in a difficult place.