A Good Steward?

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15th Sunday after Pentecost | September 22, 2019

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 • Psalm 79:1-9 • 1 Timothy 2:1-7 • Luke 16:1-13

16 Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’

“The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’

“So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’

“‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’

“The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. 11 And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? 12 And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?

13 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”

Luke 16:1-13 New Living Translation (NLT)


Over the last couple of weeks we have been looking at several of Jesus parables. This particular parable or story is unique – it looks like Jesus is celebrating deception. Here’s what I want us to focus on this morning. In verse 8 Jesus states, “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd…” He then states the point of the lesson for us as children of the heavenly Father.

“Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”

I truly believe that God owns everything. However, there are things that He entrusts to us. It’s funny that we call them our possessions, when in reality we are simply stewards of what is already God’s. Those “possessions” are what Jesus calls worldly resources. What is the purpose of our possessions? Their purpose is to benefit others. We aren’t supposed to hoard the resources that God has made us stewards of for our own use. Those resources are for the benefit of others.

Jesus reminds us that if we are faithful in the little things, we will be faithful in the bigger things. Jesus really gets to the crux here. If we can’t be trusted with the resources that He has given us here on this earth – the resources that we can see, how can we be trusted with the heavenly resources that we can’t see – the resources that Jesus calls the true riches of heaven? Jesus takes it one step further and asks if we can’t be faithful with other people’s things, then why should God trust us with stuff of our own?

It seems hard to believe that it has been over 3 years since I worked at Chick-fil-A. The mission statement of the organization is:

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

This is really the mission of the children of the heavenly Father – to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. In the book of James we are told, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father” (James 1:17). We are simply stewards of what God has entrusted with us and we are to take what God has entrusted us and use it to benefit others.

As this story finishes Jesus reminds us that God and money (or things) are two different masters and you can’t serve to masters. One or the other will be the master of you. So let me challenge you to be a good steward of what God has entrusted you.

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The Lost is Found

14th Sunday after Pentecost | September 15, 2019

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 • Psalm 14 • 1 Timothy 1:12-17 • Luke 15:1-10

15 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

Luke 15:1-10 New Living Translation (NLT)


As we near the 3/4 mark of the gospel of Luke, Jesus is beginning to irritate the Pharisees and the other teachers of the religious law. These guys had wonderful knowledge of the Jewish scriptures and yet struggled with compassion. The Pharisees were upset that Jesus was spending way too much time with who they considered sinners – not worthy of the grace of God.

Jesus tells two stories, one of a shepherd who has 100 sheep. In the culture, owning 100 sheep would make you a rich man. In counting the sheep for the night, the man discovers just one sheep is missing. He leaves the 99 safe sheep and goes to search for the one lost sheep. The man uses all his resources to find the one lost sheep. When he finds the sheep, he tells all his neighbors that he has found the lost sheep.

In the second story, Jesus tells of a woman who has 10 coins and loses one. She searches the whole house and leaves no corner or mattress unturned and finally finds the coin. She also calls all her friends and family and tells them she has found the coin.

Jesus reminds us that the same thing happens when one who is lost spiritually is found. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. We are reminded that the well don’t need a doctor, but it is the sick. Jesus calls us to go to where the lost are – to seek them out – so they can be found – and when they are found the whole of heaven can rejoice.

Counting the Cost

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jeremiah 18:1-11 • Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 • Philemon 1:1-21 • Luke 14:25-33

25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.

28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

31 “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? 32 And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. 33 So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

Luke 14:25-33 New Living Translation (NLT)


Jesus reminds us of the cost of being a disciple. He tells us that being a disciple is not for the faint of heart. We see this throughout the Gospels. Jesus wants to make sure people know the cost of being a disciple of Jesus.

It’s interesting that this scripture comes up today because we are starting a new series at McCrae Brook this morning called Grown-up Faith. We are asking the question, why do people get stuck? One of the reasons that people often get stuck in their faith is that they fail to count the cost.

Recently there have been some rather public figures who have renounced their faith or at the very least they said they are questioning their faith. Perhaps it was because they weren’t made aware of how difficult the faith is. Jesus speaks some hard words when he says, that you must love everything much less than Him if we want to be a disciple. The world in the scripture says hate everything in comparison to loving Jesus. These are strong words and yet they are the words of the one whom we follow. He needs our undying devotion.

Jesus tells us that we must follow him – even to the point of carrying our own cross. We must die to ourselves – that is the cost of being his disciple. He never promised us the life of following Christ would be easy – in fact – he says the opposite. Following Jesus is hard – it will cost us everything. And the question for us is are we willing to pay the price?

Humility and Hospitality

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

Jeremiah 2:4-13 • Psalm 81:1, 10-16 • Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 • Luke 14:1, 7-14

14 One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely.


When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

10 “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests.11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. 13 Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.14 Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

Luke 14:7-14 New Living Translation (NLT)


This is a wonderful gospel lesson for this week’s devotional. We have been working our way through the Gospel of Luke during this season that follows Pentecost. Jesus has been invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner. It happens that this dinner is on the Sabbath and again Jesus sees a man in need and heals him. Luke only records that Jesus healed him, but doesn’t indicate the reaction of the Pharisee – especially in light that it was the Sabbath.

With the healing over, Luke turns his focus to Jesus’ words. We learn that those who were at the dinner table were competing for top billing. In the culture, when you were seated near the host, it meant you were a special guest. Jesus takes note that the guests were seating themselves and vying for the place of honor. We are reminded that we don’t know exactly what a host is thinking in making the seating chart. Jesus says the best thing to do is go for the place of least honor. That way, you won’t be embarrassed when the host moves you to a place of lesser honor.

This really points again to the upside down nature of the Kingdom of God. Jesus told us that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Jesus says, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (vs. 11) This is much different than the way we think.

These words come to mind when Paul quotes and ancient hymn in Philippians 2

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

Jesus even demonstrated this behavior when He washed the disciples feet. Not only does Jesus remind us to be humble, but He reminds us to show hospitality to all. Often when we show hospitality, we do it to those who are our friends…those who might give us good influence. We all know the saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know.”

James, the half-brother of Jesus writes these words in his letter:

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

Jesus calls us to take care of the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. We are to avoid favoritism because Jesus commands us to avoid it. In this short passage Jesus reminds us – his followers to be like Him – to be humble and to show hospitality – not necessarily to those whom we think deserve it but (many times) to those whom we think least deserve it.

Compassion

11th Sunday after Pentecost | August 25, 2019

Jeremiah 1:4-10 • Psalm 71:1-6 • Hebrews 12:18-29 • Luke 13:10-17

10 One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, 11 he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” 13 Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!

14 But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working,” he said to the crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.”

15 But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? 16 This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”

17 This shamed his enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things he did.

Luke 13:10-17 New Living Translation (NLT)


One of the things that caused Jesus trouble on many occasions was healing on the Sabbath. Each of the gospel writers includes at least one instance. Today we have Luke’s account of Jesus healing a woman who had been bent over double for eighteen years. That’s a long time. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and noticed the woman. She didn’t come to Jesus for help, but Jesus noticed her and without her asking immediately heals her – first with his voice and then by his touch. What was her response? She praised God. There were probably many others who were also praising God along with this woman, but there’s a critic in every crowd. This time it happened to be the synagogue leader. He chastises Jesus for healing the woman on the Sabbath.

Jesus responds back and asks, (in my paraphrase), “What’s so wrong about healing on the Sabbath?” He makes the point that the leader watered his animals on the Sabbath. That took some work to do that and yet healing this woman was considered work – delivering this woman from the hands of Satan was work. Jesus in effect says, “What better day than to release her from the hand of Satan than on the day that I created for worship.”

It sounds like that silenced the enemies quickly. Jesus had compassion on the woman and while it wasn’t something normally done on the Sabbath, he went ahead and did it anyway – after all, he was the Lord of the Sabbath. In another healing episode, Jesus asks was the Sabbath made for man or man made for the Sabbath? We need to remember that the Sabbath was indeed made for rest from work, but it was also a day to worship God. Tomorrow morning we will gather for worship. It’s important to remember that despite everything else – Sunday or the Sabbath is a day for worship and rest. You could also say that is a day – more than any other – for compassion. If you see someone in need on the Sabbath, what a better way to worship God than to help them out. It’s what Jesus would do.

Fracture!

10th Sunday after Pentecost | August 18, 2019

Isaiah 5:1-7 • Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19 • Hebrews 11:29-12:2 • Luke 12:49-56

49 “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! 50 I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished. 51 Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! 52 From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against.

53 ‘Father will be divided against son
    and son against father;
mother against daughter
    and daughter against mother;
and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law
    and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’”

54 Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, ‘Here comes a shower.’ And you are right. 55 When the south wind blows, you say, ‘Today will be a scorcher.’ And it is. 56 You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times.

Luke 12:49-56 New Living Translation (NLT)


As I first look at this scripture, it would be hard to say that there is a harder teaching in the scriptures somewhere. This teaching seems harsh for Jesus…but Jesus has preached harsh messages in the past. We often call Jesus the Prince of Peace – and he is, but here He calls himself the great divider – that people will be divided – that people will be fractured because of him. Even families will have different ideas of who Jesus is.

This teaching comes on the heels of Jesus teaching about his return. He reminds his disciples to be ready for his coming. The reason that Jesus comes to divide is because some will believe in His message and others will not. We can see even today that friends and family are divided. Is Jesus really who He says He is? Or is He just a man who claims divinity?

In many ways, Jesus is reminding his followers to be faithful to the message of the Good News of the Kingdom. He tells them that we know the signs of nature and we should be just as attuned to the signs of the Kingdom. It’s a reminder to us that people will disagree simply because we belong to the Lord. They see our walk with the Lord as foolish and wonder why we do it? Sometimes people can get downright hostile toward the Christian life, but once again Jesus reminds us that it is normal – it’s not something that is unusual, but it is a sign of the times – and it has been a sign of the times for 2,000 years and will continue to be a sign of the time until Jesus returns. The question for us is – will we be faithful to the Kingdom of God – will we preach and proclaim the Gospel – the Good News until Jesus returns? We should do our best, but sometimes people will disagree with our message, just as they disagreed with Jesus. Sometimes the Gospel is a stumbling block – let’s just make sure that it’s the Gospel that is a stumbling block and not us.

Be Alert

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost | August 11, 2019

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 • Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23 • Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 • Luke 12:32-40

32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. 34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

39 “Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

35 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. 37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! 38 He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.

Luke 12:32-40 New Living Translation (NLT)


I want to pick up something that Jesus says right before this morning’s text.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.”

Luke 12:31

This verse is important to understand what Jesus is getting at in the words that follow. The work of the Kingdom and seeking the Kingdom should be the number one priority of every believer – and we are promised by Jesus, if we make that our number one priority – everything else will fall in line.

That’s why Jesus then says, “So don’t be afraid little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” (vs. 32) Jesus goes on to tell his disciples to invest in the Kingdom, because “where your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (vs. 34)

Believers are to seek the Kingdom of God with all we have – just as we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Which is one of the reasons he tells his disciples to sell their possessions and give to those in need.

Those possessions aren’t important as we think about the Kingdom of heaven – Those possession aren’t important as we think about the return of the Lord. Jesus changes gears now and reminds his disciples to be ready for the Lord’s return – it’s not a complete change of direction because being ready for the Lord’s return is seeking the Kingdom of God. We need to keep our hearts ready and we need to do our best and making sure that others are ready for the Kingdom of God – which again is what it means to seek the Kingdom of God.

This is our promise that if we are ready, we will receive the reward that the Lord has promised.

But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready

Luke 12:38b