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Jesus of Nazareth, King of ______________? (Day 3)

Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19 ESV)g21

John 19 gives an account of an interesting conversation between Pilate and the religious leaders over a sign he had posted on the cross of Christ. They were fearful that people would see the simple sign as a statement of fact. It said, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Their back and forth really centered on two things. Was He a King and if so, whose King was He?

As we prepare for the Lord’s Table on Sunday, we would do well to address that ourselves. Is He really King and if so, is He our King? If you have clicked on a devo geared to prepare you for communion, chances are you believe He is King and for most of us, we declare by our actions and words that He is our King. Yet, we often get so caught up in life that we act like anything and everything else is king of our lives.

Claude King, co-author of Experiencing God, often says the problem is not the sinful actions that beset us, but a foundational heart issue. Our hearts have departed from our first love. We set out with Jesus as King but we have let the pride of life, the lust of our eyes, and the lust of our flesh crowd Him out. (I John 2:16) Then, other good things that are not sinful in and of themselves, become sinful because they have taken the place of the one who rightfully should occupy the throne of our lives. We turn those good things into idols of the heart that take preeminence over the one who is preeminent!

Idols of the heart can be anything. It can be your job, fishing and hunting, your children, golf, Facebook, an organization, or a million other things. These may be a great part of your life, but as a King, they are terribly lacking in purpose and payoff.

So, how do you know if Jesus is still King of your life or not?

  1. Evaluate your calendar and checkbook.
  2. Take an honest look at whether worshipping God has been pushed into a convenience in reference to your favorite hobby, job, or organization.
  3. When you get up or get to your desk, do you first open our Bible or your email?
  4. When you pray, are you always distracted by things that must be done? (Note, I said always.)

Spend some time this week seeking the Lord and evaluating whether He has been crowded out as King. Return to your first love by letting Him reveal idols of your heart and by confessing and forsaking them.

As you prepare this week, click here to listen to the late Rev. S. M. Lockridge in his famous oration, That’s My King. It will help you get things back in right order.

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Hide and Seek (Day 2)

Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” (John 18:4 ESV)

hide_and_go_seekSunday morning at Antioch, we will come to the Lord’s Table in what Jesus intended to be the most intimate and special worship event this side of heaven. He met with His disciples for a final meal in which he celebrated passover and instituted a celebration of the new covenant that we call communion. From there he goes out across a little brook into a garden not far from where they had dinner. It was there, the betrayer brought the soldiers to Jesus to arrest Him. Ever in control and knowing the hearts of men, He asked a simple question. Who are you looking for?

That is a good question for us to ask ourselves as we prepare to worship at the Lord’s Table. Who (or what) are we looking for?  Clearly, Jesus intended it to be a very significant event, but what about you? What will you be looking for this week as you prepare your heart? Will you even take the time to prepare your heart? What about Sunday? Who will you be seeking on Sunday?

Some will come expecting a “feeling,” kind of a goose bump experience where they can say “that was a really good service this morning.” Others come expecting nothing, in fact will not even remember until they walk in the door and see the preparations that we are having a special service. So, what should you be seeking? The answer to that is so simple, it sounds trite. We should be seeking Jesus.

Like the soldiers and the crowd that day, we often fail to see him even when we are seeking him because of the crowd and the noise and the activity. It poses a challenge to us then. Who do we seek and how do we seek Him? Can I suggest you spend some time today praying and focusing on two things.

First, focus on getting quiet and still enough that you can recognize Jesus when you see Him. Even if you daily read the Bible, try to clear out a little extra time on either side of it so you are not too rushed to see Jesus as He reveals Himself in His Word.

Secondly, and more importantly, work on sharpening your vision. Look for Christ in the comings and goings of your day. Let Him reveal Himself in that encounter with a co-worker or store clerk that might otherwise annoy you; see Him in the beauty of the Springtime around you; hear His whisper as you suddenly know the answer to a problem or question that has been plaguing you; and recognize His still small voice as you feel the urge to help someone out.

If you will tune your ears and eyes to hear and see Jesus this week, it will be much easier for you to see and hear Him in communion on Sunday.

 

Go There (Day 1)

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  Mark 14:12

This Sunday at Antioch Church, we gather at the Lord’s Table. It is never something we come to flippantly or take lightly. We gather there at the invitation of our Lord, who told us to do it regularly in remembrance of Him. As  you know the Passover meal was the Jewish worship event that Jesus fulfilled and so it was that he celebrated His final passover just hours before his betrayal. As we prepare for the communion we will celebrate Sunday, we would do well to look into those final hours and use them as a guide to prepare our hearts.

043His Jewish disciples knew it was time to celebrate this feast so they did what anyone would do. They began to make preparations. They asked a question of Jesus. Basically they wanted to know where they should go to get ready for it. As we begin this week, that is a good question for each of us. “Jesus, where will you have us go and prepare for you…?”

While we know they were talking about a physical place, the challenge for us is a little different. Have you ever heard someone say, “Don’t go there?” For us, as we prepare for the Lord’s Table, there are some places we probably would prefer not to go, but if we are to be prepared, we have to “go there.” While this is not an exhaustive list of the places you may need to go, it should serve as a discussion starter for you and the Father as you look inward and prepare to meet with him.

  • Is there any known sin in your life, something you know is wrong but have continued to do or have simply ignored?
  • Is there someone you have wronged and from whom you need to seek forgiveness?
  • Has God told you to do something, give something, or say something and you have resisted or delayed?
  • Has anyone offended you and you have refused to extend forgiveness?

I assure you that if  you will “go there” and prepare your heart, Sunday will be a high and holy day as you encounter the Living Lord Jesus at His Table.

Why I am Voting Yes on 1!

Yes on 1There is great irony in the political back and forth coming from both sides of the proposed amendment 1 to the Tennessee constitution, up for vote on November 4. The liberals are arguing against it on the basis of big government and the conservatives are saying it is not really about limiting abortion. I think both of those positions are dishonest. The “no” people are also saying over and over that “religious leaders” are saying vote no. I suppose I am a religious leader and I plan to vote “yes” and do all I can to influence people to do the same. Here are my reasons.

  1. I am PRO-LIFE! Unapologetically, PRO-LIFE. I think the promise of liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot extend to anyone who does not first have the life promised in the same clause of our founding documents. I think the protection of life should extend to the unborn, the aged, the insane, the victims of genocide, etc. I am not even sure of my conservative credentials on capital punishment anymore. (Don’t write me on that one. I am just being transparent.) I am PRO-LIFE.
  2. I believe that all life is valuable, both the unborn and the mother considering the abortion. I think her life is valuable as well and that if she chooses to have an abortion, the clinic should be inspected at least as regularly and stringently as the McDonald’s that kid would eat at if allowed to live. I further think the doctor performing the abortion should have admitting privileges to a local hospital in case something goes wrong. While amendment 1 does not enact those laws, its passage is necessary for that to happen.
  3. I am PRO-LIFE! Don’t believe the lies on either side that say this is about anything other than the protection of life.
  4. I don’t know about things like rape and incest but both sides seem to agree that those cases make up less than 2% of all abortions. It is closer to 1% but I am giving the benefit of the doubt here. I am voting for 98-99% of the unborn babies who will potentially be aborted. I will leave it to far smarter ethicists than myself to figure out the rest.
  5. I believe government has some Biblical responsibilities, among which is the protection of those who cannot protect themselves. Therefore, I categorically reject the opponents’ view that this amendment is just an intrusion of big government. If the government cannot protect the most vulnerable among us, both the unborn baby, and the emotionally vulnerable woman, who should they protect?
  6. Did I mention that I am PRO-LIFE?
  7. I believe the people have a right to legislate and not the courts, especially courts presided over by people we did not elect. Amendment 1 puts the making of laws regarding abortion clinics, waiting periods, etc. in the hands of the state legislature. People on both sides of the issue then have the right to elect people who will represent their views. Roe v Wade is not up for a vote in this election. It is the law of the land. What we are deciding is who gets to decide how these abortions are regulated in Tennessee.
  8. I am PRO-LIFE. Have I said that before? On this issue, I am a one-issue voter. I have never knowingly voted for anyone that was not pro-life and will abstain from an election before I will cast my vote for someone that is not pro-life. If you think that is narrow minded and simple, I am ok with that. Its a free country. You believe what you want to about me and I will be pro-life and vote accordingly. Isn’t this a great country?
  9. Planned Parenthood is using MY money to fight it. In broad general terms, if Planned Parenthood is for a political agenda, I am opposed to it. I think they have a right to their opinion. I don’t think they have a right to use MY money to fight the things I believe in. So far, Planned Parenthood of Memphis alone has given $800,000 to fight amendment 1. According to their own reports 45% of their funding comes from government grants. MY money. All told, various chapters of PP have given over 1.3 million to fight amendment 1. That is nearly 3 times the entire budget of the Yes on 1 folks. 45% of PP of Memphis would equal a majority of the half million the pro amendment forces have spent. PP also happens to be the largest referrer of abortion related services in the nation. Do they do some other things? Yes, but remember I am a one issue person when it comes to abortion.
  10. Finally, I am voting Yes on 1 because I am PRO-LIFE!

Thank you for reading this lengthy post. If you would like to see the exact language on the ballot and an explanation, here is a link.

The Christian and Social Media

online-social-mediaI am writing this post for the benefit of the people I pastor but of course, it will be read by others. Up front, I am warning you. This is a post from a Christian pastor that is aimed at followers of Christ regarding their treatment of others on social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Consider yourself warned.

I am often appalled at the way Jesus people treat each other on social media. To be clear, some of them are my friends, both personally and socially. I even find myself falling victim to this trend at times. We say things to and about others we would never say to their face; hide behind a screen and make thinly veiled accusations and threats; write paragraphs of “pity party” ramblings designed to get others to feel sorry for us and say nice things about us; and attack those who hold differing opinions with memes and words that are entirely inappropriate for a believer.

May I just remind you that the teachings of Christ in Matthew 18 regarding those with whom we are in disagreement? The Bible says nothing about telling the whole world about it. The first step is face to face, “go to that person,” individual conversation. When we rant, vent, or accuse on social media, we have sinned. Even if they sinned first or differently, we have sinned and if I break one of the commands, I am guilty of all. How we respond on social media often puts “us” in the same class as “them”. We are all sinners.

Oh, and don’t get me started about the viciousness of the conversations, posts, and accusations against those whose political beliefs are not like mine! I will write more about that in a later post. For now, lets consider the admonition of I Timothy 2:2 to offer “requests, prayers, petitions, intercession, and thanksgiving” for everyone and specifically for “kings and all those in authority.” I don’t see much place in the teachings of Christ to disrespect our president or other elected leaders or to vilify their supporters who believe differently than we do.

Here is what I am saying: Let’s be salt and light with this great tool of social media rather than be hypocritical and live one way in the flesh and differently on line. Now, here is your assignment. Go encourage someone on your social media today. I would love to hear your opinion.

Heart Check for the Lord’s Table: Temptation

I will post some random thoughts this week to guide your thoughts and prayers as you prepare your heart for Holy Week and to come to the Lord’s Table. These thoughts are based loosely on the Model Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil….

Looking inward to our heart and motivation to prepare for communion requires us to ask a difficult question. Is the besetting sin in my life, whatever it is, something that really has control over me or do I have control over it? After all, the apostle, Paul, reminded us in I Corinthians 10:13 that “no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.” Jesus himself told us here in the model prayer that every prayer should tune our heart away from temptation and toward obedience.

We know God would never lead us into temptation. In fact, James 1:13 says just the opposite.“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;”.

So why should we pray this? Because we know our own hearts, don’t we? The heart of man is deceitfully wicked above all and no one can know his own heart. We do know that the flesh is weak and easily led astray, especially if we have a history of certain kinds of sins. Jesus knew that about us as well.

That is why he reminded us that every prayer should include a verbal commitment to directing our lives away from the things that tempt us to forsake and disobey God. You can’t always help it when temptation presents itself and for times like that, there is the second part of that prayer. “Deliver us from evil.” 29

So, as we prepare for the Lord’s Table, we should answer the following questions:

  1. Am I planning my life so that my pet sin is easily available or am I asking God daily to lead me away from that direction?
  2. When faced with temptation, do I let the Holy Spirit deliver me or do I continue to shrug and assume I cannot win the battle?
  3. Is my prayer today, “Lord, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the evil one, because I know all the power in the universe belongs to YOU.”?

As you prepare to come to the Lord’s table, cleanse your heart and examine your motives when it comes to the things that tempt you. Ask forgiveness, for sure, but more than that, ask for strength and for God to give you supernatural leadership to avoid the things and places that tempt you.

Heart Check for the Lord’s Table: Forgiveness

I will post some random thoughts this week to guide your thoughts and prayers as you prepare your heart for Holy Week and to come to the Lord’s Table. These thoughts are based loosely on the Model Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13.

Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.

There is an old preacher poem that goes like this. “To live above with those we love, o that will be glory. To live below with those we know, well that is a different story.”

There is no more intimate time of worship and time in God’s altar than the Lord’s Table. Matthew 5:23-24 speaks of the importance of being a forgiving and forgiven person when you worship at His altar. “Therefore 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.”

Jesus says it even more succinctly in the Model Prayer. We are to pray, “God forgive me as I have forgiven others.” Is that a safe prayer for you? What if today, Jesus meted out forgiveness to you in the same measure you have forgiven others? 

As we come to the Lord’s Table this week, take a few minutes to ask yourself some questions.

  1. In as much as it is within your control, are you at peace with everyone in your world?
  2. Is there anyone whose name causes you to wince and/or react sinfully?
  3. Have you done all you can to forgive all you can?
  4. Is there anyone you have refused to forgive?

ImageTake some time today and prepare your heart for the Lord’s Table by taking inventory of past relationships and being sure you have sought and extended forgiveness where necessary. Don’t worry about what others have done and whether they have reciprocated. You are not responsible for them, but you are responsible for you. Don’t come to the Lord’s Table with known relational sin in your life.