A Journey Through Holy Week

Listen to the audio (podcast) version of this blog.

Because He loves me, he traversed, climbed, descended to find me so that he could then extend, suffer, atone, and substitute himself for me in the place of my sin, suffering, abuse, neglect, sickness, illness, disease, death, eternal hell, self, pride, ego, loneliness, depression, fear, lack of knowledge, pain, and injustice…so that I can know God.

Because He loves me.

Martin Smith wrote it like this: Over The Mountains Over the Sea Here You come running my Lover to me When I feel the cold of winter And this cloak of sadness, I need You All the evil things that shake me All the words that break me, I need You Over The Mountains Over the Sea Here You come running my Lover to me Do not hide me from Your presence Pull me from Your shadows, I need You Beauty wrap Your arms around me Sing Your song of kindness I need You Over The Mountains Over the Sea Here You come running my Lover to me All through the valleys Through the dark of night Here You come running to hold me till it’s light   In the garden of Gethsemane, the night that Jesus was betrayed and sent to his execution. They came after him with clubs and swords. Yet, Jesus did not fight arrest in Garden. He willingly went.

Matthew 26:55 Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. 56 But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.” At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled.

They took him before the Religious leaders of the day. He did not fight the accusations, nor defend the truth.

Matthew  26:59 the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death… 62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven. 67 Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, 68 jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?”

Jesus could have been released by the Roman Govenor, Pilate. When given the opportunity to plead his case and be released, Jesus traversed that temptation, he rejected the easy route. Jesus knew that in order for us to be in relationship with God, that there was a price to pay. The bill was much too expensive for me and you. But…Because He loves us, He searched and found us. You see our separate from God is much more than a long distance or a tall boundary or wall. We actually are close to God, yet we hide from him. Yet, he looks for us, because he loves us.

Matthew 27:13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.

Jesus never fought with the soldiers, instead he fully complied.

Matthew 28:27 Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. 29They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 30And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. 31When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.

At each turn in the story, Jesus is making his way to you. He is searching the valleys and ascending the high mountains. Where is Pete? Where is Monica? Where is Robin? Where is James? Where is Sharon? I hear them crying. I know they are hurt. I know they are separated from me and are afraid. Afraid of life. Afraid of me. But, I’m looking for you! You are my love.

Song of Solomon 3:1… I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not. 2 I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but found him not. 3 The watchmen found me as they went about in the city. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” 4 Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go Song of Solomon

Matthew 27:32 Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. 33 And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). 34 The soldiers gave Jesus wine mixed with bitter gall, but when he had tasted it, he refused to drink it. 35 After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. 36 Then they sat around and kept guard as he hung there.

Matthew 27:40 “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”…42“He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him!

Instead of answering the accusations, he spoke to us. His actions on the cross speak volumes to people across the world. Transcending every nation, gender, race, and creed. Instead of answering his critics, His actions on the cross whisper across the timeline to you as you cry and mourn, as you suffer, as you celebrate:

Song of Solomon 1:8 The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills. 9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, there he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, looking through the lattice.

As we read through the Story of Jesus’ sacrifice, we hear him call to us

10 My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, 11 for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. 12 The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. 13 The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.

Today, let’s answer back. Today, let’s respond with our acceptance. Today, I have faith in Jesus. My hope is in his Resurrection. I love Him.

Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be Done!

talkingtogodHere are the sermon notes from week 3 of our series called: Talking to God.  Click here to listen to the podcast of this message.

Jesus showed us how to talk to God: LET’S READ THIS TOGETHER:

Matthew 6:9 … “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

The last two weeks, we covered verse 9. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Our Father in Heaven, may your name be kept holy! Today, let’s talk about that one line:  “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Those of you who were with us in the summer know that I had severe pain in my back and right arm in association with herniated discs in my lower neck. I had tremendous pain in the middle of the night. Couldn’t sleep. I lost about 30-50% of muscle in my right arm. We prayed, I went to a chiropractor and PT and took some ipubrofen. All of it. Over time, the pain went away in my back. My arm is getting stronger. I did a lot of research. Talked to doctors. Go an MRI. Talked to doctors and therapists.  Here is one fact that I learned in all of this process:

You can have a problem before you have a symptom.

We spend most of our life trying to get rid of a symptom and we think if we have no symptoms that we are all good.  The truth is that the problem begins to root itself in before you ever know it. My physical therapist told me that around 70% of people have herniated discs and don’t even know it because they don’t have any symptoms yet. The disc is bulging but not pressing on a nerve.  Basically, your spine can be misaligned before you ever see a symptom. We need to strengthen the muscles and realign. When it comes to our spiritual life. The principle is the same thing! Our spirit needs realignment. Our thinking needs adjustment. This is the whole meaning of : “Your kingdom come, your Will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.”  This part of the prayer is called the “Lordship petition”

This Part of the conversation Realigns our Desires and Adjusts our Thoughts

This is the realignment of our heart. This is the re-centering of our mind. Augustine was a 4th century church father. He said “God is reigning now, but just as a light is absent to those refusing to open their eyes, so it is possible to refuse God’s rule.” This is the cause of all our human stress, anxiety, fear and anger. We naturally get out of alignment with God. We have placed other people or things in a place where only God deserves to be. We have given other things or people lordship over our life. Therefore, we need his kingdom to “come”. This is a VITAL part of talking to God. Before we get to any of the other parts of the conversation, we need to make sure that we are centered around His Kingdom and His Will. This is like a mini-communion service you are having in your house or prayer time. Communion is when we eat of the bread and drink the Lord’s supper and re-center our life and this is the gist of this part of the prayer. Just the other day I was speaking to a friend and she talked about how she goes through difficult times and in time realizes that she needs to trust in God for each step that she is taking. God gives her clarity, it makes sense, and she finds peace, but then she said, “it is so easy to forget and I get lost in cycle of life and doubt again.”  YES, exactly! That is why we pray! That is why we daily re-center around the Kingdom. This part of Prayer is all about maintaining the right focus and vision of your life. This is why Jesus included this part of the prayer. IF we talk to God everyday AND include this section, “Thy Kingdom Come”, we have a daily realignment until we are aligned permanently with his Will.  I don’t know when that happens, but we keep praying until…

We ask God to so fully rule us that we WANT to obey him with all our hearts and with joy.

One well known prayer says it like this: “Grant us grace to bear willingly all sorts of sickness, poverty, disgrace, suffering, and adversity and to recognize that in this (difficulty) your divine will is crucifying our will.”  We don’t understand it, but we trust. Jesus prayed this exact prayer in garden of gethsemane. This is why we trust him. Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything that he hasn’t already done for us. Without trusting God, we try to take God’s place and seek revenge on those who have harmed us. However, We are protected from character assassination, slander, backbiting only if we lwarn to commit ourselves to God. Thy Will Be Done gives us peace. If not, we feel compelled to try to control people and control our environment and make things the way we believe they ought to be. Thomas Cranmer(burned at the stake) said, “May we obtain all you have promised  May we love all you have commanded” Martin Luther, “May your future kingdom be the consummation of what you have begun in us.” The beginning of prayer is all about God. We are not to let our own needs and issues dominate prayer, rather, we are to give pride of place to praising and honoring him, to yearning to see his greatness and to see it acknowledged everywhere, and to aspiring to full love and obedience. God centeredness comes first because it heals the heart of its self-centerness, which curves us in on ourselves and distorts all our vision.

Children of the World Choir to perform at PSM

The Children of the World International Children’s Choir, comprised of orphaned and disadvantaged children from several different countries, will be performing at PromiseLand San Marcos on March 15th at both 9am and 11am services.

The choir represents a rich and culturally diverse set of backgrounds and experiences, each with an urgent story to tell. This year’s Rescue Tour calls attention to the staggering impact that poverty, malnutrition, and dirty water have on millions of children around the world.

Through the powerful medium of song, dance, spoken word, and creative media, Children of the World provides a compelling message of hope and opportunity, leaving an unforgettable impression with audiences across the country.

The children have performed in such venues as Focus on the Family, Brooklyn Tabernacle, and Disney World.

cotwc_slide

About World Help

World Help is a faith-based humanitarian organization that exists to serve the physical and spiritual needs of people in impoverished communities around the world.

World Help is committed to meeting people’s physical needs by providing humanitarian, medical, and educational assistance and ensuring access to clean water to as many communities as possible. We promise to meet people’s spiritual needs by providing Bibles and establishing churches.

Since 1991, World Help has impacted over 74 million people in 63 countries worldwide, offering both physical and spiritual restoration for individuals, families, and communities.

Name Dropping

talkingtogod

Sermon Notes for week 2 of Talking To God.

Today, I want to talk to you about, “Talking to God. Experiencing the Awe and Intimacy of Prayer.”

Do you know any name droppers? They use a person’s name in a conversation to position themselves. Using that name helps their ego.

Also, when you happen to meet someone that is powerful or popular and you want to relate to them, you can mention someone that you possibly know in common. Other people might be getting the ordinary “hello, good to meet you, shake hands, go on.” But, when you know someone that they possibly know an instant connection can form.

 

Names are interesting, aren’t they? They are powerful to unlock or bind.

A signature is binding when it is the legal name of someone. I couldn’t put “son” or “dad” on my check. But, when I put C. Robin Steele on the check, it becomes valuable.

 

Sometimes we don’t want people to know a name. We might be related to someone with a “bad name”. If we say their name, then we are negatively associated with someone and we don’t get a fair chance in the relationship.

 

Scripture actually talks about dropping a name in life:

Ephesians 2:18 For through him (Jesus) we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

You have backstage passes. Actually, you have more than backstage passes. You can go get on the tour bus and go home with the star of the world.  “Access” in that passage was the permission granted when an ancient king granted someone an audience.

 

When you (an insignificant, messed up human) go to have a conversation with the eternal, all powerful, perfect, creative force in the world what you need to do is start the conversation by dropping a name. JESUS.

Dropping the name Jesus gives us access, credibility and common ground in our conversation with God.

 

What name dropping does is create or try to create common ground. In order for there to be a substantial relationship there has to be common ground. It is extremely rare for friendships to begin where people are in completely different places in life.  The majority of the time it is because you “click”. You relate. You are similar.

 

The ancient philosopher, Aristotle came to this same conclusion thousands of years ago. He reasoned that friendship requires that both parties share much in common as equals.  And when it came to the gods, he said, “while it might be possible to honor and appease the gods, actual intimate friendship with a god was impossible.”

All ancient lands and cultures had temples, because human beings once knew innately that there was a gap, a yawning chasm, between us and the divine. God is great and we are small – God is perfect and we are flawed. Temples were places where an effort was made to bridge that gap. Sacrifices and offerings were made and rituals observed by professionals “mediators” (priests) who sought to bring the remote divinity near. No religion claimed that the gap could be officially closed.

 

But since God is infinitely greater than human beings, “the possibility of friendship ceases.”

 

Hebrews 4:14 …since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

 

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.

 

How could we approach God with a complete confidence?

It is because God became like us, equally mortal and subject to suffering and death. He did it so we could be forgiven and justified by faith apart from our efforts and merits.

 

We has humans surrender our life to God and we are confess the name of Jesus Christ. We are saying that I will no longer get my validation from anything other than my family name: Jesus.

After you profess your surrender to God and confess of your sinfulness. You are then baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

 

Because of Jesus, we can run to our Heavenly Father without fear. We have the most intimate and unbreakable relationship possible with the God of the universe.

 

That is how we begin talking to God…”Father, I come in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The name of Jesus Christ is my ticket. My access.

Ephesians 2 said that we have access through Jesus in The Holy Spirit. In this one text, we see: Son, Holy Spirit, and Father. Prayer involves the fullness of God.

Nothing quite explains it like Romans 8:22-28

Romans 8:22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering….

 

23…We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

 

26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

 

This is a symphony. A conversation where your human voice, blends with the power of the Holy Spirit, some things heard, some understood, some unheard, some unintelligible by the human ear, all weaving together creating a sound, a message reaching the heavenlies. It makes a point. This world is heart broken and despondent. The whole thing is groaning and looking forward to a day of freedom and release of the pressure and inconsistency.

The groanings of Romans 8:26-28 does not apply to our direct, personal feelings of depression and despondency, but to our entire human situation of frustrated longings as we wait the future glory. We know that God is working out all things for our good according to his will.

 

The Holy Spirit give us an inward confidence, a legitimacy that the pressure you are feeling is valid and at the same time God is in control.

 

In other words, the Holy Spirit makes you feel good.

 

Martin Luther said this about the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer:  Although…you could rightly and properly be a severe judge over us sinners…now through your mercy implant in our hearts a comforting trust in your fatherly love, and let us experience the sweet and pleasant savor of a childlike certainty that we many joyfully call you Father, knowing and loving you and calling on you in every trouble

 

Timothy Keller once said, “Prayer is the way to experience a powerful confidence that God is handling our lives well, that our bad things will turn out for good, our good things cannot be taken from us, and the best things are yet to come.”

 

 

Talking to God

talkingtogodHere are the sermon notes for week one of the sermon series: Talking to God!  You can listen to the podcast also. First, let’s start with the question of: Why do you listen to me?

  • Some aren’t. That’s ok. I understand I probably won’t either at some points.
  • You are new. “What’s going to happen?” A short attention span.
  • Your life situation has placed you in a desperate spot and you are listening for the pastor to shed some light or offer some hope.
  • Others that have been around a while are listening because you like me. You don’t have the prerequisite of, “This better be good, or I’m out.” Instead, you are like, “I’m here. I’m family. I like this place. I like pastor robin. What is he going to say today? I’m in.” I could tell you that we are going to have church at the river and you would go. Hint hint….

My job as a preacher is to consider all of the different subsets of people in the audience and try to capture everyone’s attention. Examples: the ones who aren’t listening by doing something crazy, loud or funny. To say something intriguing or profound for the curious.  To study, pray, and seek God for those who are struggling and need hope and revelation.  It’s a Tough job when there is a tough crowd. Talking to people is not always easy.  Especially when you don’t really know who you are talking to.  Strangers are so hard to connect to sometimes. I’ve come to several conclusions. One is:

Our attention span is longer the more we LIKE someone.

There could be someone talking to you with all the knowledge in the world.  However, they could be so boring or arrogant or verbose. No matter how much they articulate or pontificate, you don’t communicate because of what you know about them. The opposite is true as well. We love our kids. When our kids are too young to be understood, we will listen intently to their babbling straining to pick out words that we recognize. We are intently listening. We are eager to communicate with our kids.  Those of you who don’t have kids, have dogs. You talk to and listen to your dogs.  YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Moms and dads never change.  I love hearing my 8 and 10 year old speak to me. I sit beside my daughter who is 13 and unable to form words and speak audibly because of her disability and decipher her non-verbal communication. (she loves me more than momma) I love to hear from my kids. My mom and dad love to get calls from their 38 year old son (me). About what? Nothing. They would love to just talk…about…nothing. What do they want to hear from me? Anything. Call me. Let’s talk! They desire to talk to me, not because of what I can offer them or what interesting info there is to share.

In an intimate relationship, the desire to talk is solely based on the value of the relationship. “I want to talk to you…..because you are you.”

Here is another observation: Most of us have a problem talking to God because: We don’t understand how much God really likes us.  We don’t understand how much God is excited about our life and eager to connect.  Our problem as humans is that we judge how much God likes us by how much other people like us. Especially, people in authority. Therefore, our relationship with God is hindered and handcuffed by our own mentality and limitation we put on God.   I want you to see a video of a father and daughter and the baby is so cute, but I want you to pay more attention to the father in the video.

It is with this context that Jesus teaches us how to pray | How to talk to God.

Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the heathen do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

What he tells us is not to be preoccupied with our oratory skills or what others think about our prayers. INSTEAD…

9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

The very first step in talking to God is not focusing on what to say, but focusing on who you are talking to.

The more you get to know God: the more often you pray, the longer attention span you have, the more you will long for it, the more you will take others with you.

Author and Pastor Timothy Keller said in his book, Prayer, “Prayer is a personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God.

Job is a great example of someone who went through a journey to learn more about who God is. His journey was brutally hard. As you read throughout the book of Job you see his prayers change. His journey changed his knowledge of God and thus changed the way he talked to God. At first, he is processing his pain and suffering through prayer, then God reveals himself to Job. From that point, Job talks to God in repentance and adoration. The more clearly Job saw who God was, the fuller his prayers became – moving from mere complaint to confession, appeal, and praise.   The power of our conversations with God lie not in our effort and striving, or in any technique, but rather our knowledge of God.   God spoke to Job out of a whirlwind. Oh, how we long for God to show himself to us clearly and distinctly. The truth is that God speaks to us much clearer than a whirlwind.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God. (John 1:1)  When we look to Jesus Christ we are looking at the glory of God through the filter of human nature.  Let’s get to know God! The easiest and clearest way to get to know God is read his Word. Read the whole thing, but if you are new to the relationship, read about Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Once you read about God in the flesh. You start to communicate his language little by little.   Most likely no one in the room remembers when you learned to speak. Why? Because you were little. Think about the way a small child learns to speak. The child is not trying to learn a language. Instead, that language is being spoken into the child from the parents and others around her.

Eugene Patterson says, “We are plunged at birth into a sea of language…then slowly syllable by syllable we acquire the capacity to answer: mama, papa, bottle, blanky, no. Not one of these words was a first word….all speech is answering speech. We were all spoken to before we spoke.”

Studies have shown that children’s ability to understand and communicate is profoundly affected by the number of words and the breadth of vocabulary to which they were exposed as infants and toddlers. We speak to the degree we are spoken to.   Therefore, if we want to talk to God, we first listen to what he is saying to us. What is he saying to us? Our conversations with God arise out of immersion in the scripture. We should plunge ourselves into the sea of God’s language, the Bible. We should listen, study, think, reflect, and ponder the scriptures until there is an answering response in our hearts and minds.   When we are immersed in God’s Word and presence, we will learn how to pray. It might take as long as it does for a baby to learn his primary language.   Discovering God so that our conversation with him is rich and meaningful.  So that conversation helps us know him more and more.   Christians, however, have an infinitely greater word of promise. God will not merely build us a house (as he did with King David), he will make us his house. He will fill us with his presence, beauty, and glory. Every time Christians merely remember who they are in Christ, that great word comes home to us and we will find, over and over again, a heart to pray.

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