Gardendale Nazarene

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Archives for March 2015 | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene


A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

–Luke 22:24-30 ESV

This is one of those passages that puzzles us. Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet. Now they are arguing with one another over greatness. We read the passage with perfect hindsight thinking, “Seriously guys! How did you miss it?”

When are honest with ourselves, we know we often ‘miss it’ too.

Jesus points out an important issue, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them…But not so with you.” This is a simple truth in the Kingdom of God. In the world, lordship equals being placed over someone. In the Kingdom of God, the leader is the one who serves.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “True greatness means to be like Jesus, and that means being a servant to others.”

If you will allow me to put a little Nazarene spin on that quote– Holiness means to be like Jesus, and that means holiness is expressed by being a servant. Holiness is best defined by what we do. Christ was not know by what He didn't do- He was known by what He did!

As the people of the Kingdom, our lives are rooted in the gospel and patterned on Jesus’ life. I believe the challenge for us is not to simply redefine the word success, but to live a life that redefines what holiness looks like- "And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, 'If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all' (Mark 9:35 ESV).

The "Why?" Questions

It is Holy Week. This week stands apart from all other weeks of the year. It is this week where we find ourselves walking in real time with Jesus towards the cross. This year, I would like to use Luke 22:14-23:49 as a basis for daily devotionals. It is my prayer that you will use these devotionals as a means of preparing your hearts for Easter celebration.

"And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this."

–Luke 22:14-23 ESV

Most of us have a collection of “Why” questions. Your collection might look like this:
“Why am I going through this?”
“Why do I feel alone?”
“Why am I the only one struggling?”
“Why was I the one downsized?”
“It was his/her decision, why does it effect me?”
All of us deal with the "Why" questions in some form or another. These questions swirl around in our heads, and for many of us, they seem to control our lives.

What if this Holy Week, we could change the question? What if there was one question, if properly answered, could reframe all of our “Why” questions?

When I read the “Why” questions, I hear desperation, loss, pain, loneliness, hopelessness. In the upper room, I hear the answer for a different question.

The question isn’t “Why?”
The question is “For whom?”

In the midst of our confusion and questions, Jesus utters these words, “This is my body, which is given for you.”

For whom did Jesus die? For you– for your questions that seem unanswerable– Jesus died. For the part of your heart that breaks when you think about that situation– Jesus died.

Author David Lose writes, “…we hear in these two words the shocking, unimaginable, and utterly unexpected promise that everything Christ suffers – all the humiliation and shame, all the defeat and agony – he suffers for us, that we might have life and light and hope in his name!”

May our "Why" questions be framed in the knowledge that Christ died for you!

Ambassadors for the Kingdom

This Lenten season, we have been on a journey together. This journey began in the wilderness with the Hebrew people as the twelve spies returned from their trip to the Promised Land. We stood with Moses as he found his home in the presence of the Living God before a burning bush. As we journey through the wilderness, I hope we hear the voice of God giving us direction and a new orientation.

Paul reminds us our direction revolves around the fact that we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Last week, I used Dr. H. Orton Wiley’s definition of an ambassador. He gives us four points to consider:

  • An ambassador is a citizen of another country than that in which he temporarily resides.
  • He has no message of his own but delivers the message given him by his own country.
  • He speaks not on his own authority but on behalf of, and with the authority of, his country.
  • The ambassador's mission is to bring peace.

We have a message given to us and Paul reminds us of this message, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

This work that we have been entrusted with it not easy work. It is, however, a message the world needs to hear. This Easter, we have the opportunity again to proclaim- God has done something completely new in Christ! This is our message. This is our hope. This is the gift we have been given.

May we proclaim this gift of new creation in our fallen world.

Grace and peace,

Pastor John

Insist Upon These Things!

I hope you are staying warm on this cold morning. A few weeks ago we wrapped up our series on Titus. Titus is often an overlooked epistle. Once you read it, though, you realize that it is filled with great power and wisdom.

As Paul is wrapping up his letter, he urges Titus to lead his church in the way of the cross. He wraps up by telling Titus, “Insist on these things.” What is Titus to insist upon? I’m glad you asked!

  • We are saved by His kindness and generous love– not by anything we have done.
  • We are saved through the washing of the new birth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. This new birth was richly poured out upon us through Jesus, our King and Savior.
  • We are justified by His grace and made heirs in the hope of the life of the age to come.

Last Sunday, we began our Lenten sermon series with a look at the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4. As I mentioned, there are many sermons to be preached from this passage. Yet, the point that strikes me is this– The temptations of Christ are a question of what shape His ministry/life is going to take. Is Jesus going to follow after His Father, or choose an easier path? It is satan saying, “Just do this and I can make your life easy.”

I think satan tempts us all with this question. “Make your life about ________ and all will be easy.” My prayer is when we hear that voice, Paul’s voice rings louder- “Insist on these things!”

May we insist on what truly matters!

Pastor John