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Tag: love

Contrasting a “Me-Centered” Society

If you’ve ever read through the Gospel of Matthew, you’ve probably noticed that Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe it’s about 55 times in Matthew – 126 times throughout all four Gospels – that Jesus talks about this kingdom. He tells all kinds of parables and gives all kinds of illustrations to help us understand what the Kingdom of God is like. And of course, Jesus isn’t talking about a kingdom with physical borders and castles and armies and things like that. The kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom. In fact, when Jesus was on trial before the Roman governor, Pilate, Pilate asks him, “Are you a king?” And Jesus says in John 18:36…

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Jesus was saying his kingdom was very different from the kingdom of Rome or any other kingdom that we might be familiar with. You see, unlike most kingdoms, the Kingdom of God is not centered around some physical location like a city or a castle or a country. The Kingdom of God is centered around God. And God of course is not limited by location – he’s omni-present. He’s present everywhere all the time. So God’s kingdom is not defined by a physical location, but it’s defined by the people who carry out the will of their king.

Two weeks ago we looked at the Lord’s prayer and there’s a key part of that prayer – one that you’re probably familiar with – which goes like this: 

“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 KJV

We talked about how, when we pray that, we are inviting God’s will as King to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as his will is being carried out in heaven. 

And so when Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven – he’s talking about the people who submit to and carry out the will of God in their lives.

And it makes sense that we should pray that prayer – “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – We should be eager to carry out God’s will because we know that God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect. We read that from Romans 12:2 three weeks ago:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Our will is often flawed. I can’t speak for you, but I know that my will is often selfish and sometimes I make decisions that hurt others or even myself. We are not perfect people and we do not make perfect decisions.

But God is perfect. And his will is perfect. It’s good and it’s pleasing. We don’t always understand it. We don’t always see the good immediately. But if God really is how the Bible describes Him – loving, just, faithful, and all those other things – then we can trust that his will is good and pleasing and perfect.

And I’ve certainly seen that to be true in my life. I’ve had a lot of regrets doing things my way, but I’ve never regretted doing things God’s way.

But that’s sure not to say that it’s been easy. Doing things God’s way often means doing things the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. We’ve talked about how the Kingdom of God is very different from the Kingdom of this world. In fact, that’s probably why Jesus talked about it so often. If we are going to live in the kingdom of God, then we need to be prepared to live very differently – different from how we used to live – different from how the world around us lives.

And so that’s what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks as we’ve been going through this message series – which we’ve titled “Kingdom Living”.

What is God’s will for us in how we should live? If Jesus is our King and His will is good and pleasing and perfect, it would seem to me that we would want his will to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as it is in heaven. And if so, then what is that good and pleasing and perfect will for us? How does He want us to live? What does Kingdom Living look like?

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Samson & the Battle for Revenge

Well this is our seventh week looking at the unlikely heroes in the book of Judges – and its the 3rd week looking specifically at the life of Samson. And in some ways it seems a bit disproportionate to spend so much time looking at just one of the 15 Judges – especially when we consider that several of the other judges – ones we’re not even going to talk about – did a much better job at leading Israel than Samson did.

However, one of the reasons that we are spending some much time with Samson is because I think in a lot of ways, most of us can relate to Samson fairly well. Cuz we know what it’s like to fail. When Samson does stupid things and he messes up and he falls short of what God has called him to be – we know what that’s like. I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there. But what I really like about Samson’s story when Samson does stupid things and when he messes up and when he falls short of what God has called him to be – God doesn’t condemn him – but instead God gives him grace. And that is so encouraging to me. I trust that you’ve been able to find hope in Samson’s story as well.

And for those of you who have missed the last couple of weeks, I should probably back up a little bit and give you the context for what we’re going to talk about today.

We first met Samson when he was just a baby – actually, he wasn’t even born yet. The Philistines had been oppressing the Israelites for about 40 years at this point and God told Samson’s parents that they there we about to have a son and that their son was going to begin to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines. God also told them that their son was to be a Nazarite from birth. That meant that he was to be dedicate or set apart for God for his entire life and as a living symbol of that, He was to do three things.

#1. Never eat or drink anything from the vine – wine, grapes, raisins.

#2. Never cut his hair

#3. Never go near a dead body.

Those three things were symbols of how Samson was to be set apart for God.

So just as God promised, Samson was born and God was with him as he grew up. We even read that God empowered Samson with incredible strength. The first example of this is when he killed a lion with his bare hands – he ripped it apart as easily if it were a young goat. And that’s just the beginning – today we’re going to read about some of the other incredible things that Samson did.

But despite these promising beginnings, things started going off track for Samson when he met a girl.  Well, actually he didn’t even meet her – he saw her from a distance and when he saw how beautiful she was, he immediately wanted to marry her. That’s probably not the best way to find a wife. But the real issue here was that she was a Philistine – and Samson’s God-given purpose in life was to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines – not to marry them.Of course, Samson’s parents tried to talk him out of it, but Samson wouldn’t listen to them. And that was kinda our first red flag – Samson had very little regard for the opinions and advice of his parents.  He certainly did not honour them as he should have. The second red flag in that story is how Samson had no regard for his Nazarite vows. We read about how he went back to that lion that He killed and he found that a swarm of bees had made honey in the carcass. He scooped out some honey and ate it – which was a complete violation God’s command for him never to go near a dead body.

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Samson and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Wedding

Last week we began to look at the life of Samson. And of all the unlikely heroes that we’ve looked at in this series – it seemed, in the beginning anyway, that Samson was actually the most likely. We read how before he was even born, God had specially chosen him and had set him apart as the hero – as the one who would begin to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines.

You’ll remember that an angel told Samson’s mom before He was born that her baby was to be a Nazarite from birth. Being a Nazarite meant that he was dedicated or set apart for God and as a sign of that, he was never to eat or drink anything from the vine (including wine or grapes or raisins) – he was never to cut his hair – and he was never to come near a dead body. Those three things were symbols of how Samson was set apart – dedicated to the Lord.

And things were very promising for Samson right from the beginning – we read that God blessed him as he grew up and that the Holy Spirit began to stir Samson or to prompt him to action as he got older. We even read about the time he was attacked by a lion and empowered by the Holy Spirit, he ripped the lions jaws apart as easily as if it were a young goat. We could clearly see that God was setting up Samson for greatness. It was starting to seem pretty obvious that God was going to use Samson in some amazing ways.

But then we read about two incidents that kinda shook our confidence in Samson. Despite the fact that God had set Samson up for greatness (or perhaps even BECAUSE of the fact that God had set Samson up for greatness), it seems that Samson is starting to become a little bit arrogant.

We read first of all how he totally disregarded his parents by insisting that he marry a young Philistine woman that had ‘caught his eye’. He didn’t even know the girl, but he insisted that she looked good to him and he demanded that his parents ‘get her’ for him. Of course, they saw the foolishness in this decision (knowing that God had specially set Him apart to rescue the Israelite from the Philistines – not to marry them) and they tried to dissuade him – but Samson had no regard for his parents advice. He did not honour his father and mother – as God had instructed in 5th of the 10 commandments.

The second incident that kinda shook our confidence in Samson was his disregard for his Nazarite vows. We read how after he killed that lion that attacked him, he went back later on and found that a swarm of bees had made honey in the carcass. And despite the fact that, as a Nazarite, he was never to go near a dead body, Samson scooped out some of that honey from the lion’s carcass and ate it. This was blatant disobedience to God’s command that he live as a Nazarite – set apart for God.

So we’re started to get some pretty serious red flags about Samson character. He seems to have no regard for authority of any kind – not his parents – not even God Himself. And you can be pretty sure that when someone has no regard for authority, disaster is just around the corner.

Well, today, we’re going to pick it up right where we left off. Samson and his parents have now arrived in Timnah to make the final arrangements for the wedding – this is the wedding that Samson’s parents had tried to talk Samson out of – but Samson wouldn’t listen to them and so the wedding went ahead. So we pick it up in Judges 14 – verse 10.

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Serve Like Jesus

We talked last week about how Jesus ate meals with tax collectors and other disreputable sinners – the lowest of the low – because by simply eating with those people, He was letting them know that they were important to him. The fact of the matter is – God loves sinners. Which is good – because all of us are sinners. If you ate with anyone last week, you ate with a disreputable sinner. Even if you ate alone, you ate with a disreputable sinner.

But that’s ok – because God loves, forgives, and accepts sinners.

And we were talking about eating last week, because we’ve been going through the acronym BLESS. This acronym has been teaching us how we can use our blessings so that we can be a blessing to the people around us.

We started with the B – Begin with prayer. It’s a simple prayer: “Here I am. Send me. Allow me to use my blessings to meet someone else’s need today.”

Then the L stood for Listen. If we want to bless the people around us, we have to actually listen to them – learning what their needs truly are – and we need to listen to the Holy Spirit as He prompts and nudges on our divine appointments.

The E, of course stood for eat. Eating with people is a universal way of letting them know that they are important to us and that we want them to be a part of our lives. This is also a great opportunity for us to practice listening to them – getting to know them and discovering their needs.

And now today, we get to our first S. And this S might not be quite as enjoyable as the E, not as simple as the L, nor as easy as the B. However, this S together with the next S could very well be the most powerful tools we have in bringing people to receive the greatest blessing – that is, their own personal relationship with God.

The first S in our BLESS acronym stands for serve. Now this one out of all our five lessons seems to be the most logical. It just makes sense that if we want to be a blessing to the people in our community, then we ought to serve them.

Think about your own life – how many times have you been totally blessed because someone else served you in some way? Maybe your neighbor mowed your lawn or shoveled your side walk while He was out doing his own. Maybe someone brought a casserole over to your house when you had a family member in the hospital. Maybe your buddies came over to help you build your deck or move some furniture. Maybe someone offered to watch your kids while you and your spouse went on a date night.

When we have people serve us in some of these ways, we just think “Man, you guys are awesome! You are such a blessing to me!”

That’s one of the fantastic things about being part of the church – you have this whole group of people who are willing to step up and help out whenever someone has a need. I know that I’ve been blessed on my many occasions – and likely, so have you.

But what about the people aren’t part of the church – do we serve them too? What about the people that no one really likes? The difficult people? What about the grumpy complainers? What about the people who want nothing to do with the church – nothing to do with you? Do we still serve those people?

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