Jesus Is...

The “Bytes of Bread” devotions that you’ll find on LivingShepherd.com up to this point are generally “recaps” of the previous week’s sermon. However, for the next few weeks that will change. This Sunday at Living Shepherd we’re continuing a 6 week sermon series entitled “Jesus is…” The goal of the series is simple. Each week we hope you’ll leave with a better appreciation for who Jesus is! For the next few weeks, each sermon will be previewed in a “Bytes of Bread” devotion. Hope you enjoy!

 

Easter 7 – Sunday June 1, 2014 — 1 PETER 4:12-17; 5:6-11 

“Jesus is…your Living Glory” 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:12-17, 5:6-11

If you grew up in a Christian church or around other Christians, you’ve probably heard encouragement that goes something like this. “God works for good in all things—even in sufferings.” That’s a true statement. But do you know why God chooses to use suffering for good?

It’s all about perspective. You probably know from experience that when this life is “good” the temptation is to become comfortable. Imagine your family is on a dream vacation. All the travel plans have run smoothly. The accommodations are impeccable. The family is all smiles all the time. When life is “good” we get comfortable. Our perspective easily becomes narrowly focused on the joys of this life and it becomes so very easy to forget about the incredible blessings Jesus has won for us in heaven.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that your God is against any enjoyment in this life. But he does use suffering to help us better understand the value in what Jesus has done—to keep our perspective focused on the eternal blessings Jesus won for us! Jesus died to win an eternity completely without suffering for you! Add to that the Easter message that Jesus didn’t stay dead, and you have the confidence that Jesus’ power over death means you will live too! Your death is NOT the end! It’s the beginning of an eternity of unimaginable happiness in heaven!

By allowing us to suffer a little here, God leads us to crave the glory Jesus has won for us in heaven!! That’s how God uses our earthly suffering for good!

Blessings on your weekend,

Pastor Z.

Easter 6 – Sunday May 25, 2014 — 1 PETER 3:15-22 

“Jesus is…your Living Water”

 

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

1 Peter 3:15-22

Is there anything in this world that we take for granted more than water? If you’re thirsty, turn on the faucet! If you need to clean up, jump in the shower! If you need to wash your clothes throw them in a washing machine—hit start—the water flows—and the machine cleans! Water is so essential to every aspect of our lives, and yet with all the modern conveniences that we enjoy, water has become something we often take for granted. 

The Bible will often use water as an example to teach us spiritual lessons. Just as water is essential for quenching thirst and cleansing filth, Jesus is essential for quenching our thirst for forgiveness and cleansing us from the sin that stains our very being. And yet, much like with water, Jesus can easily be taken for granted. 

For example, in this text from 1 Peter 3 we hear the world-wide flood recorded in Genesis chapters 6 through 9 compared to Baptism. We’re told that Baptism saves us! We’re told that it’s not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God! And that’s not a pledge we make, it’s a pledge God makes to us! At our Baptisms, God places his name on us (“…in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…”) and pledges that we will stand before him with a clean conscience when we die!

Why does Baptism have this power? It’s because Jesus rose from the dead! He kept his promise to pay for the world’s sin, just like he kept his promise to take his life back up again! Because Jesus is your Living Water, your thirst for forgiveness really has been quenched! You’ve really been cleansed from the sin that once stained you! That’s amazing! We’re baptized once, and yet that one baptism gives us lasting, daily confidence!

And yet, much like with everyday ordinary water, our Living Water can easily be taken for granted. And so the same Savior God who quenches our thirst and cleanses us from sin keeps us afloat with portions of Scripture like this. He keeps us focused with portions of Scripture like this that show us how to live a Christian life and makes sure we know why. "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God!"

Have a great weekend! 

Pastor Z.

 

Easter 5 – Sunday May 18, 2014 — 1 PETER 2:4-10

“Jesus is…your Living Stone”

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” 8 and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:4-10 

We like to find our own way, don’t we? It seems to start as children and never really goes away. Even if a parent shows their child a perfectly good way to complete a task, often times that child will try to tweak the parent’s example in some way. I see it in my own kids all the time. For example, the other day as I was helping (maybe “overseeing” is a better word) my oldest daughter (5) clean the play room. She was less than enthused about the whole idea since every toy we own is in that room, and it seemed like every single one was on the floor. I suggested we start by sorting. “Let’s put all the Legos away first. Then we’ll put the books away. Then the kitchen food.” You get the idea. Instead of responding, “WOW Dad! That’s a great idea! Let’s do it that way!” Her response was to suggest a similar idea in a different order. “How about we put the books away first, THEN we’ll sort the Legos and kitchen food.” I’m not a psychologist, and I haven’t researched this in a controlled environment, but I’m guessing you know exactly what I’m talking about. There seems to be this desire ingrained in us to do things our own way.

This attitude shows up in regard to religion all the time. The concept that Jesus is the only way to heaven (see John 14 – this week’s gospel lesson) is not an attractive concept to human beings. “The ONLY way? You’re telling me Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven?” We like choices (example: American restaurant menus) and “Jesus is the only way” isn’t conducive with our desire to choose.

Why is that? Why are we typically against others telling us what we should… or how we should…? It’s control, isn’t it? It’s all about control. We want to be in control. We want to control what we eat. We want to control our work life. We want to control every detail of our day/week. We want to control our own destiny. And when someone (in this case—God) tells us that we can’t control our destiny, that bothers us. Until we see why.

God tells us that our sin completely separates us from him. That’s a problem. God also tells us that we can’t fix the separation problem. That’s a bigger problem. God then tells us that chose to fix this separation problem once and for all by offering a perfect sacrifice on our behalf. This is where Jesus comes in. God became a man so he could offer HIMSELF as a perfect sacrifice on our behalf. God wants you to know this is how he fixed the separation problem.

We can want there to be another way to fix the separation problem. But there will never be another way. Nor does there need to be! That desire to find another way is just another example of our sin—another sin paid for by Jesus!

Jesus is the only way. Resist the urge to find another way. If you choose that route, you’ll trip and fall. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

This Sunday at 10:30 AM we’ll connect these thoughts to the stone analogy found above in 1 Peter 2. It may sound funny, but it’s incredibly comforting to know “Jesus is your Living Stone!” Join us!

Blessings on your weekend!

Pastor Z.

Easter 4 – Sunday May 11, 2014 — 1 PETER 2:19-25

“Jesus is…your Living Shepherd”

For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 2:19-25

When you were young and dreaming of what you’d become when you grew up, did you ever dream of becoming a Shepherd? Even if you grew up on a farm or ranch—even if you were involved in 4H or raised sheep of your own—how many of you dreamed of becoming a Shepherd when you grew up?

If you’ve spent any time in a Sunday School class or reading a Bible, you probably know that Jesus is often called our “Good Shepherd.” But unless you grew up with dreams of becoming a Shepherd you probably aren’t all that familiar with the job description!

Let’s use King David for an example. As a young man, before he went out to face the Philistine Giant named Goliath, David had to do some convincing—he had to convince King Saul that he was up for the task. Listen to David’s argument. “But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.

A good shepherd does more than care his/her sheep—does more than lead them to water and pasture. A good shepherd will fight to protect those sheep! In the case of a young David, that meant even fighting off a lion and a bear!

So, how does that impact the way you look at Jesus? In this particular translation of 1 Peter 2:25 Jesus is called the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. “Overseer” is a fine translation, but the same word often means “guardian.” Since 21st Century Americans aren’t all that familiar with the wide range of duties rolled into a shepherd’s occupation, maybe the message being communicated would be better understood if we read that verse “Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” Because that’s who Jesus is! As your Good Shepherd, Jesus not only cares for your earthly needs as long as you roam this earth, not only provides you with full and free forgiveness for every mistake you’ve ever made, he also guards/defends/protects you each and every step of the way toward your home in heaven!

Join us at Living Shepherd this Sunday May 11th at 10:30 AM to dig further into this amazing truth!

Blessings on your weekend!

Pastor Z.

 

Preview For Sunday May 4, 2014 — 1 PETER 1:17-21

"JESUS IS...Your Living Lamb"

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1:17-21

Here’s a question for you, what is your life worth? Does the value of your life insurance policy or the size of your paycheck determine your worth? What about your words and actions? Do they determine the value of your life?

Often time’s motivational speakers will strive to help you find more value within yourself. But, the problem with this approach is that it often leaves you on an emotional high—a high that failures and hardships will easily crush.

Why is that? Why is it that when we look within ourselves for value we leave feeling less valuable than before? Take a look at verse 18 from 1 Peter chapter 1 once more. Peter talks about this “empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers.” And that tells us so much. The Greek word translated “empty” is packed full of meaning—“empty,” “void,” “worthless.” This is how God chooses to describe not only the way of life we’ve inherited from our parents, but even the sinful condition of our hearts. (Take a peek at Romans chapter 3)

It’s a difficult truth to swallow, but God wants us to see that apart from him—our lives—our existence as unique human beings literally has no value.

But as hard as it is to hear that, there is some really good news to follow! Valueless though we are—our God has redeemed us—ransomed us—purchased us for a price! And not just any price! He didn’t bargain for us—he didn’t try to drive the price down to get a good deal on worthless sinners like us—he purchased us with the precious blood of his very own Son! The promised Christ! (“Christ” is the Greek word for “Messiah.” “Anointed One” in English)

God sent his very own Son to offer his perfect life as a sacrifice for the sin of the whole world! If you’ve ever read portions of the Old Testament that deal with animal sacrifice you may be starting to see why God commanded they be offered to him. When an innocent lamb was offered to God, it pointed ahead to God’s promised Messiah. That sacrifice did nothing to pay for the sins of the people, it pointed ahead to the perfect sacrifice that God’s Messiah would one day offer for the sins of all people. Your's and mine included! (See Hebrews chapter 10) This is why we hear Jesus called “a lamb without blemish or defect.

Even though we are worthless on our own, Jesus, “a lamb without blemish or defect,” gave his life for us! Even though we are worthless on our own, Jesus purchased us with his very own blood. That means we’re no longer worthless! We’re priceless!

Oh…and one more thing…the “lamb without blemish or defect…” IS ALIVE! Jesus is your Living Lamb! Join us at Living Shepherd this Sunday May 4th at 10:30 AM to dig further into this amazing truth!

Blessings on your weekend!

Pastor Z.

 

Preview For Sunday April 27, 2014 — 1 PETER 1:3-9

“JESUS IS…Your Living Hope!”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3–9 

Language is a funny thing. Communication is an even funnier thing. Take for example the word “hope.” If you know someone who is sick and you say, “I hope you feel better soon!” What do you mean by that? Isn’t the thought being communicated, “I want to see you feeling better soon!” The “hope” you’ve communicated is really nothing more than well wishes. There is no confidence behind it. You might feel confident the person will get better, simply because that is what sick people typically do in 21st century America—they get better! But what confidence do you actually have? How do you KNOW they will get better? You don’t. You “hope” they do. 

A wise man once told me, “The role of the communicator is not only to be understood, but to never be misunderstood.” As a pastor—someone who communicates for a living :-) —that really struck a chord with me. And as I read this week’s sermon text for the first time, I wondered if 21st century American English might actually get in the way of our appreciation for what is said in this passage from 1 Peter chapter 1. I mean, what is this “living hope” that we have been born into through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?

Is Jesus our “hope” in the way the word is so often used today? Is he simply well wishes or worse yet an insurance policy? “I hope Jesus is real. If he is that means I’ll be in heaven with him forever! If he’s not….then I guess I’ll just turn into dust…I hope Jesus is real.” Is Jesus our “hope” in the sense that he fulfils our wants in this life? “I hope Jesus will give me what I asked for when I prayed last night.” Is this the “living hope” Jesus provides us with, or is there something more?

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” Well? What do you think? Is this “living hope” merely well wishes? Is it an insurance policy or wish list? No! It’s so much more! It’s real confidence! It’s the real confidence we have that heaven is ours! The incredible truth that Jesus died and then rose from the dead validates it!

Jesus IS your Living Hope! Looking forward to digging into that truth with you at Living Shepherd this Sunday at 10:30 AM! Blessings on your weekend!

Pastor Z.