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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Before Abraham was, I Am! (Pt.2)

(Part 2)

“Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham? Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am! At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.”-John 8:56-58 (NLT)

What is it that Jesus said that made the crowd so furious? It was his use of the phrase “I Am”. The name I Am was closely associated to the sacred name of Yahweh that God gave to Israel. When Jesus ascribed that name to himself, he was claiming to be divine. This was considered blasphemy and punishable by stoning.

The crowds would not have been so angry if he had simply confessed to be a great teacher or a prophet; but Jesus was claiming to be the divine Son of God. So was Jesus divine? There are several reasons that we have confidence that Jesus is who he claimed to be.

First is the direct questioning of Jesus’ divine nature by Satan:

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”-Matthew 4:1-3

Why is Satan so concerned about discrediting Jesus’ sonship? Because if Jesus is the Son of God that means that he is divine! It is my personal belief that Satan’s questioning of Jesus’ sonship was not intended to create doubt in the Son of God, Jesus was fully aware of who he is. However, his questioning was intended to cause those around Jesus to begin to question and even doubt Jesus’ claims of deity; which according to scripture was a successful tactic.

Repeatedly we read passages of Jews, chief priests, and rulers questioning the authenticity of Christ’s claims:

“He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, “I am the Son of God.”-Matthew 27:42

Other passages including John 10:24, Luke 23:35, Matthew 27:40, and Matthew 27:54 confirm that his divine nature was being called into question. He wasn’t being scoffed for his teachings or his miracles, only for his claims of divine sonship. Why? Because if he is who he claimed to be, they would be responsible for their actions towards him.

However, Satan’s attack on Jesus’ divine nature is not the only evidence for Christ’s claim of being divine. Next week we will explore six biblical evidences that point to Jesus being the Son of God!

Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church

Before Abraham was, I Am! (Pt.1)

(Part 1)

“But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you, they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell  them? God replied to Moses, ‘I Am Who I Am” Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you.”-Exodus 3:14 (NLT)

In Exodus 3 we read the account of God instructing Moses to lead the people of Israel out of captivity. Moses has a laundry list of excuses why he cannot do it, but one thing he poses to God is this question: “What if they ask me Your name?” God’s response? Tell them I Am sent you. The phrase I Am is heralded and held in high esteem as a name by which we refer to God. These two tiny words take on even deeper meaning when, in the Book of John, Jesus refers to Himself 8 times using the title of I Am to describe Himself to God’s people.

This is a very bold move on Jesus part. For hundreds of years the people of Israel knew God by that name. By ascribing that name to Himself; He is essentially equating Himself with God:

“Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.” The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham? Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am! At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.”-John 8:56-58 (NLT)

What did Jesus say that made them so furious? It was His use of the phrase, I Am! Jesus was declaring that He was without beginning. He was claiming to be divine!

“So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I. So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making Himself equal with God.”-John 5:16-18 (NLT)

He was declaring to the world that He was not simply a mere man, He was the Son of God. Many considered this to be blasphemy, which according to the Law was punishable by death. The question of Jesus Christ’s divine nature is a crucial truth.
A truth we must settle in our hearts before we can have a genuine relationship with Him.

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord!  This is a question we must each settle in our hearts. If He is who He claimed to be; then each of us is responsible for our actions and attitudes towards Him.

Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church

The Well

“Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.”-John 4:7-8

As Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria, Jesus became tired and sat down beside a well near the village of Sychar. It was around noontime when a woman came out to draw water. Some people say that Jesus had a divine appointment (a God ordained moment) with this woman, but could it be that he simply took advantage of the opportunity afforded to him by her showing up?

It is my personal opinion that every encounter we have with an unbeliever is divinely appointed because we have been commissioned by Jesus Christ to go and make disciples of all nations. The well was the local watering hole. At some point, somebody was going to come along to draw some water. I would like to think that Jesus would have had a life-altering discussion with whoever showed up at the well that day. I don’t believe he would have ignored everyone else, because he was waiting on that particular woman to show up!

When the woman came to the well, Jesus immediately struck up a conversation with her and spoke at length with her about her need for living water, her sinful condition, and true worship. 

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a women, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her? “ or “Why are you talking to her?” The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”-John 4:27-29

Did you ever stop to think about this? His disciples had went into the village to buy food; the same village this woman went back to and started spreading the good news about Jesus. Twelve men who walked with Jesus encountered a multitude of people who were lost and there was no indication they shared the good news about Jesus with any of them. All they came back to Jesus with was lunch. This woman came to the well, had an encounter with Jesus, went back to town and told everybody! Soon the people came streaming out to see Jesus. As the people came toward them in the blazing afternoon sun, Jesus said:

“You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!-John 4:35-36

When Jesus told them to “look up, the fields were white unto harvest”, they would have been staring at the same people they had overlooked in the village. I believe Jesus statement was not simply a challenge to win souls, but also an indictment. How many people do we miss sharing the gospel with because we are too busy buying lunch? The reality is that there are people surrounding us everyday that need Jesus. There is no shortage of souls that need saved:

He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray that the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”-Matthew 9:37-38

There is, however, a need for more people to share the gospel with others. We need to stop waiting on divine appointments and start living the great commission!

Giving Out of Our Need (Pt. 2)

(Part 2)

And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”-Luke 12:15

In Luke 12, Jesus teaches a parable about a certain rich man whose fields yielded him a plentiful crop. In fact, he had such a bountiful harvest that he could not contain all the crops in his barns. After considering his dilemma, he came up with a solution:

So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat , drink, and be merry.”-Luke 12: 18-19

However, that night, the man’s life was demanded of him and his great wealth was left in question. Jesus called the man foolish for he only saw fit to lay up treasures for himself and was not rich toward God! Yet, what does it mean to be rich towards God?

“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, And He will pay back what he has given.”-Proverbs 19:17

This passage and many others like it attest to the fact that when we demonstrate generosity towards others, we are demonstrating charity towards God:

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”-Matthew 25:37-40

A generous spirit is never measured by the pool of resources we have to give from, but rather it is gauged by the passion with which we give. Giving is a heart issue:

But this I say, He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”-2 Corinthians 9:6-7.

What is your attitude toward giving? Do you give grudgingly or out of necessity? Do you allow your emotions to dictate your generosity or are you purposed in your giving? Do you leave your house each day prepared to meet a need if you see one?

God promises that if we will purpose to give that He will supply all we need to be generous on every occasion:

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”-2 Corinthians 9:8

Because God takes on the responsibility of being the source of our generosity, it only makes sense that our giving should result in thanksgiving towards God:

“Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.”-2 Corinthians 9:11-12. 

True sacrificial giving will always cause us to take our eyes off ourselves, meet the needs of others, and bring glory and honor to the Lord our God! It is my prayer that your generosity doesn’t fade as the holiday passes, but rather this Christmas will become the catalyst for a lifetime of generous, cheerful giving. 

Pastor Scott Burr

Dayspring Community Church

Giving Out of Our Need (Pt.1)

(Part 1 of 2)

“So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”-Mark 12:43-33.

One of things that I love about the Christmas season is how it brings out the generosity in so many people. Even those folks, who throughout remainder of the year mirror the generosity of Ebenezer Scrooge; seem to be moved to lighten the purse strings during the holidays.

However, God never intended for our charity to be seasonal in nature. Some may be surprised to find out that giving is a spiritual discipline; an avenue by which we come into the presence of God. When we look closely at Scripture we find that giving is at the heart  of God’s nature. John 3:16 declares:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever shall believe on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

The very promise of our salvation is rooted in God’s sacrificial generosity towards us; the giving of His Son. Jesus, Himself, later would elevate and recognize giving as a spiritual discipline. Jesus taught in Matthew Ch. 6 that we ought to pray and fast in our secret places as an act of worship.  Most of us would not argue that prayer and fasting are spiritual disciplines, nevertheless included alongside these is the practice of charitable giving. This type of giving is that which seeks to bless the heart of God, not the kind of giving that draws attention to oneself.

Giving, like any other discipline, must carry with it an element of sacrifice. In 2 Samuel 24, King David went to the threshing floor of a man by the name of Araunah. It is there he looked to build an altar and sacrifice to the Lord. Araunah offered to give King David the plot of ground and anything else he needed to worship his God, but David made this amazing statement:

“No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, nor will I offer burnt offerings  to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.”-2 Samuel 24:24.

Back in the book of Mark Ch. 12, Jesus is observing the people entering the temple courts to place money in the treasury. He witnessed the wealthy come and give much followed by a poor widow woman, who came and put in two mites. It was then that Jesus makes an important contrast between the two; those who gave out their abundance versus those who give out of their need.

From my perspective Jesus wasn’t condemning those who gave out of their abundance, He is simply recognizing the woman, who gave sacrificially for God’s glory. The rich made a donation, the woman gave out of her need.

I would say that the majority of us reading this column, when it comes to giving, give out of our abundance. The question is are we disciplined enough to give out of our need as an act of worship?

Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church

The Most Unanswered Prayer

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.”-Luke 18:1 (NKJV)

The book of Luke Ch. 18 begins with the story of a widow who approached a judge demanding justice in a dispute she was having with an adversary. This particular judge neither feared God nor did he care about people and although this widow came to him repeatedly for help; he continually ignored her pleas.

The widow however was shameless in her persistence and continued to come and make her case before this unjust judge; until one day:

“The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!”-Luke 18:4-5 (NLT)

As I read this story again this week, I realized that the most unanswered prayer that we face is the the one that we give up on. It is the prayer that we have been bringing to God, over and over, and eventually stop because it is yet to be answered. Why do we stop? The answer is simple, we lose heart!

How many prayers have you given up praying because the answer to your prayer did not come in the time frame or manner in which you expected? When we have a need that we take before God in prayer, typically we start off with a lot of passion, expectancy, and faith. However, as time goes on, for many the passion wains and expectancy plummets as their faith slowly diminishes.

Soon we believe that God’s silence on the subject is His final decision and we reluctantly move on with a prayer life that is now jaded. Now we spend more time hoping God will answer our prayers rather than believing by faith that He will. We lose heart, because we begin looking at God through the lens of our dissatisfaction. Let’s get real for a moment. How often does your perception of God change based on His lack of response? Ultimately, how we perceive God will influence how we pray! If we see God as being uninterested or unjust our prayers will be lackadaisical; lacking any persistence or drive.

However, when we base our perception of Him on the Word of God and Christ’s sacrificial death of the cross; we are not moved by the supposed silence, but are driven by what we truly know about God’s character.

The lesson of this parable is not that we can, in someway, badger God into answering our prayers. You are never going to wear God down, so to speak, with your constant prayers. If what we are praying is just and right, then we can come continually with confidence to God with our request:

“Then the Lord said, “Learn this lesson from the unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”-Luke 6-8 (NLT)

If this unjust judge, who neither feared God or cared about people, ultimately through this widow’s persistence granted her justice; how much more will God, who loves us, grant our requests? This woman faced off with a man that could have had her imprisoned or killed. She knew he had an unfavorable opinion of her but she was relentless in her pursuit of an answer.

Why would would be any less persistent in pursuing God in prayer when His disposition  towards us is so much more favorable? Knowing God’s nature and character we ought to be relentless in with our prayers!

Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church