At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” - Luke 10:21
If Jesus were a pro sports player he would have been called for “Excessive Celebration” in this passage from Luke (see Luke 10:17-24). What was the cause of Jesus’ Extremely Joyful Prayer? In short, his followers finally got it. They’d been sent out, to pray for the sick and share what God was doing, then something unexpected happened. When they spoke in Jesus’ name, evil spirits ran away. Even though we may not, the disciples encountered evil spirits regularly. What was new to them was seeing demons flee. Sure, there were exorcists in those days who used incantations and rotten smelling roots, but they were not very effective. The authority and power of Jesus, however, put the enemy on the run every time.
Jesus was not excited that the demons fled, he was excited because God revealed to the disciples what happens behind the scenes when we follow Christ and pursue His mission. You see, Jesus was leading his disciples to Jerusalem where he would be arrested, beaten and killed. It would look like Jesus had given up and failed. But what was really happening (behind the scenes) is that Satan was being vanquished and death conquered.
The path of discipleship, of listening to and obeying Jesus, often looks and feels like losing. We may think we are not making a difference. But if we are striving to be disciples, if we are seeking Jesus, serving him, praying for the sick, sharing our God stories with others, if we are on mission then we can know the enemy is being overcome and we are winning. Paul put it this way, That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. ( 2 Corinthians 4:16).
If that makes you want to celebrate, then what’s stopping you from shouting out to God with an Excessively Joyful Prayer right now?
Keep Pressing On,
- Pastor Tim
Remember the words the Lord Jesus himself who said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” - Acts 20:35
The generosity of God knows no bounds, he supplies all our needs and even empowers us to be generous. What does human generosity empowered by the Spirit of God look like? Jesus, being fully God and fully human, is our example of divine generosity, which we could call “Jesus Generosity” (possessive apostrophe left out on purpose). Consider these examples from Jesus’ life.
Jesus was generous with his time… In John 4 Jesus took time out of a road trip to have a conversation with a woman no one else would talk to. You can sense the irritation of the disciples who just want to get back on the road. Jesus teaches us that people, even unwanted people, are more important than our plans and destinations.
Jesus was generous with forgiveness… You may recall that after Jesus was arrested his “friend” Peter emphatically denied knowing him. Luke 22 tells us after the third time Peter denied Jesus, Jesus turned and looked at him. This means Jesus was likely in earshot of all of Peter’s denials. So when we read John 21.15-17, we are amazed to see Jesus forgiving the remorseful Peter and reconciling their friendship. To whom do you need to show generous forgiveness?
Jesus was generous in his provision... In Matthew 14, after a long day of ministering to a large crowd, the disciples asked Jesus to send the people to the nearest restaurant row. Jesus asked the disciples, “What do we have?” They replied, “We have time to send them to the food court.” Jesus asked again, “What are we having for dinner?” They reluctantly answered, 5 loaves of bread and two fish.” “Perfect,” Jesus said, “Tell everyone to stay for supper.” Matthew tells us everyone ate and was satisfied. Being generous with what we have, even if it isn’t much, has miraculous results.
One more...Jesus and his followers were generous with their attention... Jesus noticed and paid attention to the people ignored by their community. At a dinner in Luke 7 when the Pharisees saw only a sinner washing Jesus’ feet, Jesus asked his host, “Simon, do you see this woman?” He then looked at the woman and encouraged her. In Luke 18 everyone was trying to get the shouting blind man to shut up. Jesus stopped and called the man over asking him, “What would you like me to do for you?” In Acts 3, on their way to the temple to pray, Peter and John looked directly at the beggar who was lame from birth. All the other worshippers that day ignored the man. Jesus and his followers give generously of their attention to who are not part of our immediate family, outside our circle of friends, and those who are used to being ignored.
Let’s go and be generous like Jesus.
Generous Hearts and Generous Acts
The divine ideal of generosity has been lost behind the rush to promote our generous activity. We praise those who are outwardly generous with their time, talent and treasures and hold this up as an ideal for all. Businesses now boast and make commercials about their acts of charity. How ironic that altruism is now a strategy to get us to purchase a particular product. What we learn from this is that we are to do generous things, especially if they make us look good. Here's the problem - deeds of generosity can be done by people without generous hearts. God wants and works for us to be transformed, to be truly changed, to be people with generous hearts. People who are inwardly generous always do acts of generosity in their daily activities.
That we would be generous people, inside and out, is God's goal for us. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:10 & 11, He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity. The righteousness God is producing in us has divine generosity as one of its characteristics. God is lavishly generous, we see this in creation and in the giving up of his most valuable possession, his Son, for our salvation. Jesus lived a life of extreme generosity, giving his time, his power, his attention, his wisdom, his possessions and finally his life to those in need.
In order for us to grow in generosity and live it out, at least two transformations are required. First, we must love others so that their needs become more important than our wants. It's hard to picture Jesus going on a shopping spree, to the country club or to a day spa. He was too focused on those in need. Second, generosity requires the willingness to work hard. We cannot be generous by simply tagging an extra dollar onto our purchase at the grocery store. In the New Testament, the generosity of Jesus' followers required intimate, relational knowledge of those in need as well as leadership and organization to meet the need (Acts 6; 20; 24; 2 Cor 8-9; Gal 2, etc).
When we consider the true nature of generosity, it's no wonder we would rather do generous deeds without seeking to have and grow generous hearts (the two go hand in hand). Those who have chosen to follow Christ, have not chosen the easy way, but the more difficult path of transformation. Let's seek to be like our heavenly Father, let's seek true transformation into generous people so that we may live generous lives and become more like our Lord.
This Sunday: Jesus Generosity - 2 Corinthians 9:10-11
Keep Pressing On,
- Pastor Tim
Carrying Our Cross
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
- Jesus (Matthew 16:24)
To take up your cross literally means to carry the horizontal beam of the cross (known as the patibulum) which the Romans used for crucifixion. This is what Jesus carried through the streets of Jerusalem as onlookers mocked him. When Jesus told his followers to take up their cross, he was using a physical instrument of death to symbolize our need for spiritual death. Some teach that "bearing our cross" means bearing up through life's difficulties and struggles. God helps us with life's burdens, no doubt, but they are not our cross. To take up our cross (instrument of death) means to literally and deliberately die to oneself. We are to die to our wants, our ways, our thinking, our attitudes, etc., so that we can be resurrected to the new life of Christ.
One example of something we need to die to is self-righteousness. Self-righteousness means thinking another person, because of their behavior, beliefs, political ideology or some other characteristic, is an inferior human being (Luke 18:9-14). We are self-righteous when we think another person is not worth the excess carbon they produce. Let's be honest, we come across people every day (usually other drivers) who because of their incompetence or simple annoyance justifiably deserve our contempt, our mocking and our demeaning. The only solution to becoming like Christ and loving the "worst" of humanity is to kill our attitude of superiority. Thus the need to take up our cross.
What death does God need to bring about in you? Even Paul the apostle said, "I die daily" (1 Cor 15:31). Are you seeking Christ and letting him kill your pride, lust, apathy, selfishness, greed, unforgiveness, dishonesty, etc. Jesus didn't call us to the easy life, he called us to the new, abundant, kingdom life. That life is realized through resurrection, which means that first, we need to take up our cross and die to our old selves.
Here's to death that leads to resurrection.
Keep Pressing On,
- Pastor Tim
Life Without Ballast
The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed... - Luke 6:49
Ballast is the weight at the bottom of a boat that keeps it upright in the water. Without ballast, a small wave can cause a ship to roll over. Ballast, weight, burden, load, gravity, pressure, etc. are good things because they keep us upright. Just as a ship's crew can foolishly choose to lighten the ships load so it moves faster in the water, we can chose to reject wisdom and throw off divine ballasts we perceive are holding us back. Keep in mind, God-given ballast does not hold us back, it holds us up, but that doesn't stop us from getting ourselves free.
In his book, "No Silver Bullets," Daniel Im suggests three ballasts that both the Bible and social science tell us are necessary for Christians to mature in Christ These ballasts are necessary if our faith is to continue growing and we are to continue becoming more like Jesus. These ballasts keep us from toppling over and wandering away from the path of following Jesus. What are the three? Just a warning....you will not be surprised. They are: 1) Reading the Bible; 2) Attending worship service at your church; 3) Attending small classes or groups that study God's word and encourage each other's faith (from "No Silver Bullet's" kindle location 1220).
John Wesley, the 18th century church reformer (; included these same ballasts in what he called the means or ways God's power flows into our lives. He used the terms, "searching the Scriptures, the Lord's Supper, and Christian conferencing." (1) (I admit that last one sounds funny to us today). You can find these ballasts in the Bible as well, check out Acts 2:42 as one example. Now the important question, "What ballasts, what weights, what "burdens" are those who call themselves followers of Christ mostly likely to throw off because they get in the way, hold us back and/or are "unnecessary"? The answer is: Daily Bible reading, worshiping weekly and committing to small group discipleship.
In the bible the word for God's glory (kabod), literally means weight. Those who give glory to God, give him ballast, reverence, honor, respect. They respect and therefore learn and follow his word and his ways. The decision to keep or toss God-given ballast, is a decision between two glories. When we toss aside the God-given ballast (weight, glory) it is because we think something else is more glorious. When we choose to go do something else on Sunday instead of worshiping God with our church family, we glorify and honor that something else more than God (the same goes for what we choose rather than reading God's word and being in discipleship relationships). Our choice brings us apparent freedom, but it's a freedom that is missing God's glory. It is a freedom that lacks the loving ballasts God has given to us. The choice you make will determine whether you stay upright or topple over when life tosses its waves at you. The wise person, therefore, keeps a God-ballasted life.
Keep Pressing On,
- Pastor Tim
We don't always see it, but the way Jesus served God's mission was radically different from his contemporaries. For example, Jesus chose his disciples. The normal or correct practice for rabbis of the first century was to wait for a disciple to come tot he rabbi and ask for permission to follow him. Jesus turned that around going out to people and asking them to, "follow me." Not only did Jesus choose his disciples, he allowed women to be part of his team, another first century no-no. In the story of the sisters, Martha and Mary (Luke 10), we see Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. This means he was teaching her. Jesus discipled and trained Mary and other women to be leaders in his church. No other rabbi allowed women into their classrooms. These are just two of many examples from Jesus' life.
Is God Still Speaking?
The statement says, "God is still speaking?" I believe this is true, but the full picture is this: God has spoken and is still speaking. Hebrews 1:2 tells us God has spoken to us through his Son. Hebrews 4:12 says the word of God is alive and active. God is still speaking to His people through his word and with the help of the Holy Spirit. What God speaks to us will always agree with His word and remind us of Jesus' commands (John 14:26) in order to empower us to live in obedience to Jesus' teachings found in the New Testament. God is still speaking, teaching us, rebuking us (that's a hard one), correcting us and training us in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). I hope that in my teaching and preaching I have not implied that God as stopped speaking. Rather, He has spoken and his words which are alive continue to resonate to his people (those who listen). The question for us then is this: Are we striving to listen to what God says or are we hearing what we want to hear? When Jesus spoke he said things like, "Love your enemies," "Pray for those you don't like," "Include people outside your normal circle of friends in your life," "Make disciples," "Take up your cross," "Do not live for yourselves," "Serve others," "Visit the sick," "Care for the needy," "Give," "Seek first my kingdom," etc. If you are not hearing these things when God is speaking to you, you are not hearing God speak..
Keep Pressing On,
2 Corinthians 3
The glory of Christianity is followers of Jesus being transformed into Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When we become like Christ and are the real presence and do the true work of Christ in our world, then our friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors and co-workers (FRANCs) will notice. Heads will turn and more, it is our hope, will be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Learning 2B Loving Disciples
Here is what Jesus says in Matthew 24:12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold (NASB). Here it is in the NLT: Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.
Normally, when we read this passage, we think outside. That is, we look at the decay and lack of godly love in our culture and say, "Yep, Jesus was right." If only the passage said, "Only the love of non-Christians will grow cold." But it doesn't. We must also look inside. As people become more lawless the sleeping pharisee in us wants to rise up and throw stones. Christians can be heard saying and many are thinking, "They get what they deserve, serves 'em right, hope they get the chair, ship 'em back, etc."
If that had been Jesus' thinking He would have stayed in heaven, sitting in His recliner/throne, watching Netflix on his 50 inch LCD tv or He would have gone fishing. But He didn't, His love had not grown cold, He came to seek and save the lost.
1. Pray - Lord, give us hearts to love like Jesus.
2. Read Carefully a portion or chapter in the NT
3. Share - What did you read and what is God teaching you about loving others?
Learning 2B Disciples
An excerpt from our district superintendent, Steve Babby's, report to our annual district conference on July 9th:
"Although more attention has been given to our pastors in spiritual and leadership development, fewer of our churches showed growth than in previous years. This is very perplexing! This is not an issue isolated to our district - it is one that is showing up thourght evangelical Christian churches [according a Southern Baptist denomination major study]....
Our ministries are good at continuing to do business as usual. What is needed is our hearts broken to see individuals in our communities come to know Jesus Christ as Savior. Our passion and desire should be: A spiritual awakening in our communities, our churches, and our nation."
To that end let us....
1. Pray for spiritual hunger
2. Read carefully a chapter or portion in the New Testament
3. SHARE with the group ("reply to all") your thoughts on on Dr. Babby's comments. Do you agree? What is God laying on your heart?
I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.
- William Carey
My name is Tim Kirkes. I am honored to be the a child of my heavenly Father, the husband of Lisa, the father of two boys and the pastor of San Dimas Wesleyan church.