Gardendale Nazarene

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Archives for October 2014 | Pastor's Blog | Gardendale Nazarene

Meeting Us Where We Are

Our passage for this week is Matthew 7:1-5. In preparing our hearts for worship, I would ask you to read another passage in preparation- John 8:1-11.

The text in Matthew, gives us a directive for how we view one another. Jesus tells us, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Then in John 8, we see Jesus living this out.

There are a couple of things that I would like to point out in John’s story. Let’s focus on the last couple of verses. Jesus gives the famous line in verse 7, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then, starting with the older men in the crowd, the stones started dropping.

Jesus is then left, bent down, with the woman standing before Him. John then records a subtle detail. Look at verse 10. Jesus stands up. Jesus meets her on her level- eye to eye. In the midst of her sin, Jesus meets her.

When we hear the words, “Judge not, that you be not judged," we sometimes assume that Jesus is offering a blanket of tolerance and moral indifference. I would hope, that as we read John 8:11, we would see the love and beauty of Jesus’ parting words to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” Jesus is concerned about her sin. He knows that sin separates us from life with His Father.

My prayer for this passage is that we begin to not just understand judgement from God’s perspective, but that we also see ourselves as a community marked by love, peace, justice, and reconciliation.


When I was in seminary, I had the opportunity to spend time with my great-aunt and uncle, Tommie and Milton. Milton served as a pastor, missionary, and District Superintendent for over forty years. There were very few occasions to spend time with them prior to Heather and I moving to Kansas City. One day as Milton and I sat in his study, he mentioned a Bible passage and said, “This text just preaches itself.”

As a seminary student who spent a semester writing one sermon, I had no idea what he was saying. Last Sunday, we started the sixth chapter of Matthew. This is one of those passages that brings Milton’s words fresh in my mind. There is so much to say about the text, that you can’t fit it all into one sermon.

There is one word mentioned three times in this text (vss 2, 5, 16). The word is ‘hypocrites’. It is not a word we like to talk about in church. Most of the time the word is used when talking about the church. We hear our friend say, “The church is full of hypocrites” or “I’m not going to church, everyone there is a hypocrite.”

We hear those statements and a list of excuses come to mind. We want to explain, “Jesus said that He came for the sick! Just because someone goes to church doesn’t make them perfect!” We are so afraid of being a hypocrite, we don’t spend the time looking at Jesus’ words.

The greek term ‘hypocrite’ literally means, “an actor who wears a mask.” Think about what this means for a moment. Jesus is saying, “When you pray, do not put on the mask of a righteous person. Your prayers must come from your heart.”

Jesus is still dealing with our hearts. He wants us to stop pretending and come to Him out of honesty and humility.

In Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Matthew, he points out three things that hypocrisy robs from us.

Hypocrisy robs us of reality in Christian living- The Christian life is lived from the heart. Hypocrisy means we put on the mask of being a Christian. This robs us from the freedom of living in the life of our Lord.

Hypocrisy robs us of spiritual rewards- Hypocrisy keeps us searching for the approval of those around us. This praise gives the false sense of filling, but ultimately leaves us empty. We replace the approval of God for the approval of man.

Hypocrisy robs us of spiritual influence- The Pharisees used their faith as a negative influence in their world. Hypocrisy robs us of the opportunity to be salt and light.

How do we defeat hypocrisy? The only way to defeat hypocrisy is through honesty with our Lord. When we give, pray, or fast for the benefit of people who we think are watching, we gain nothing. The only gain we can receive is from the One who wants us to live in His fullness.

Wiersbe says it best, “It has well been said, ‘The most important part of a Christian’s life is the part that only God sees.’ When reputation becomes more important than character, we have become hypocrites.”

May you remove the mask that hinders you from opening your heart to your Lord.

Divine Appointments

Last week, we were joined by the Communications Director for the Asia-Pacfic Region. It was a great morning of worship and he challenged us find the opportunities in our life where God is wanting to use us. The term he used for this was ‘divine appointments.’ I’d like to spend a little time looking at this idea.

Sometimes this can scare us. We jump to the idea that we are inadequate to share Christ with the people we come into contact with throughout the day. This feeling is natural. I would like to give you an encouragement to pray in this way.

Let’s look at the term, “appointment”. When we say appointment, we can mean a couple of things. Appointments generally mean ‘an arrangement to meet someone at a particular time and place.’ This is a general understanding of an appointment. There is another meaning, though. An appointment can also mean ‘an act of appointing; assigning a job or position to someone.’

Is it possible to accept both of these definitions? Think about this for a moment. We were challenged to pray for a divine appointment. I believe this prayer is asking God to intersect someone’s life with our lives and to open the door for us to offer grace. This might make us a little nervous, but don’t forget this is a divine meeting.

Divine means ‘from God.’ What if we saw our lives as an assigned position by the One who created all we see? The same God that put the stars in the night sky is the same God who put that annoying guy in the cubicle next to you. Why? Because He has given you the job to shine like a star in the lives of those around you!

In effect, you are praying, “Lord, at some point today, place me into the life of someone that needs to see You and give me the strength to shine Your light.”

May God give you the grace to shine!

Pastor John

Yoked to the Father

After last week’s email, I received some great questions. If you missed last week’s email, you can read it here .

One question that has been with me all week is this, “What does ‘being yoked to the Father’ look like?” This a great question. I believe the answer is subtly found in the text itself.

Look at Matthew 11:29. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Jesus tells us to take His yoke upon us and then do something– “Learn from me.” Jesus is calling us to learn from Him.

Many times, we approach our faith as strictly academic. We read. We study. We learn. Though Jesus studied the Law, His relationship was deeper than a knowledge of the Law. Jesus approached His Father the way a child learns from a parent. He lived in His presence. He listened for His voice. He learned from Him the way an apprentice would learn.

How do you approach your faith? Does your relationship with our Father look like the relationship of a parent/child or a student/professor?

Think about the stories in the Gospels. Who are the ones that connect with Jesus’ message? Do the Pharisees, with years of education in their faith, connect with the message of Jesus? Or do the common people (the fishermen, the tax-collectors, the broken and needy) connect with His message?

The people who connected are the ones who came as apprentices. They came hungry for the life-giving message of Christ. I believe this is the answer to the question from last week- “What does ‘being yoked to the Father’ look like?”

In 2003, Heather and I moved from seminary in Kansas City back to Nashville. We bought a home less than a mile from my childhood home. This house was a fixer-upper. We stripped wallpaper, rearranged the kitchen, gutted bathrooms. My mom would come over on many of those late nights for dinner and to keep us company as we worked. I would be building a cabinet or moving plumbing and my mother would ask, “How did you learn to do this?”

The simple answer is- my father-in-law and men from the church on mission trips. But there is a more complex answer. There are few times those men said, “Do this, now do this.” They taught me by doing it themselves and I watched. I was their apprentice.

Christlikeness is to approach Christ as the One whom we imitate. We are the apprentices. Being yoked to the Father is to approach Him as Jesus did- out of love, obedience, and a desire to live in His presence.

May God bless you as you seek Him,

Pastor John