Why Do I Want to Shake Joseph of Arimathea’s hand?

Jesus was far from home during the crucifixion.  As a result, his family did not have a tomb, or any other family’s member’s tomb they could use…In comes Joseph.

Who is Joseph?

Wealthy man – shown in the size of the tomb.  A possible reference to Isaiah 53:9, prophesying Jesus would be “rich in his death”

Member of Sanhedrin – lawgivers/judges – the group of men that pushed for Jesus’ death

Jesus’ Disciple – A follower of Jesus, secret follower…until now!

Good Man – He didn’t agree with the death of Jesus.  Recorded in Luke 23:51 & John 19:38.

What did he do?

Went to Pilate – That took some guts.  But it also took some clout, but Joseph of Arimathea had it, in his Sanhedrin position.

Ven. Bede said this – “It was divinely appointed that Joseph should be rich, in order to have access to Pilate, for no mean man could have access to the governor; and that he should be a just man, in order to receive the body of our Lord”

Took the body – Took the body off the cross and carried it off the hill, most likely with the help of Nicodemus.  A Jew, willing to defile himself – willing to do so for His Savior.

Wrapped the body – He and Nicodemus spared no expense in wrapping Jesus’ body w 75 lbs. of spices.

Laid body in the Tomb–Laid Jesus’ body in the tomb – Joseph cut with his OWN hands.

Rolled the stone – Gospels just say he rolled the stone in front of the tomb.  Maybe he and Nicodemus were power lifting partners during lunch breaks?  Maybe they used a fulcrum system?  Maybe they dug a trench and rolled the stone down the hill.

Why did he do ALL that?

Here’s the point.  He didn’t have to.  He did all this because he was willing to boldly put his faith into action.

Listen this man risked EVERYTHING:  His status, his wealth, his job, his life…to bury the Savior.  Now that’s BOLD.

But to me, it’s more than that…In heaven, after praising my Savior and my God …you know who one of the first hands I want to shake next…JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA.

Why?  Well, it almost goes without saying that good men weren’t hung on a cross.  That was reserved for the worst criminals of society.  So, normal practice was to leave the crucified bodies on the cross to be eaten by the birds, the cut down and thrown into a makeshift grave by the side of the hill.

Listen, Jesus didn’t deserve the whip, the thorns, the nails…

You want to know WHY I want to shake Joseph’s hand…Because my Savior certainly doesn’t deserve for his dead body to be eaten by birds, put into a wheelbarrow and dumped on the side of a hill.

So thank you Joseph.  Jesus had suffered enough humiliation because of my sin.  Thank you for stepping up and giving my Jesus a proper burial.  Thank you for your boldness.

[Entire Sermon can be heard/watched here – click on special messages –  9/17/2017 link]

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What is Good?

Most of the time, we have a very poor definition of good.  We read Romans 8:28, and we think of our own definition of good…

Good to us is a well-frosted piece of cake.  Good to us is a plush, cushioned recliner.  Good to us is sitting on the beach with an ice-cold sweet tea.  Good to us is when we wake up with clear sinuses, no aches/pains and low blood pressure.  Good to us is when we have some extra in our bank account for some fun purchases this month.

While these things are not bad…it shows we have little idea of how good the goodness of God truly is.  God’s goodness is more than this.

Joni-Eareckson Tada (a diving accident at 17 left her without use of her hands/legs…is now CEO of Joni & Friends International Disability Center, famous artist using her mouth, & international speaker) said this:

“God cares most – not about making us comfortable – but about teaching us to hate our sins, grow up spiritually, and love him.  To do this, HE gives us salvation’s benefits only gradually, sometimes painfully gradually.  In other words, he lets us continue to feel much of sin’s sting while we’re headed for heaven…where at last, every sorrow we taste will one day prove to the be best possible thing that could have happened.”

You see, God operates from a whole different level.  Not limited by time & space; Unlimited knowledge & power that has no bounds

BUT Put all these together and just TRY to doubt that God can accomplish Romans 8:28 in our difficulties.

Sure, good can be seen when life is riding on unicorns on rainbows while eating skittles.  But when life gets hard – that’s when we really see God work in miraculous ways.

God can orchestrate his plans, interweaving through the evils of this world, pulling decisions and circumstances from the past, present & future…allowing difficulties, exercising patience…and HE IS ABLE TO MAKE IT GOOD.

That’s my God – NOTHING can stop Him from accomplishing His goodness.  None of these things stopped God from producing good in Joseph’s life.  And NOTHING will stop him from producing good in your life either.

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Book Review: The Screwtape Letters

Book Review:  The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

I know what you are thinking.  Have you been living under a rock?  Did you just recently learn to read?  How’s come a pastor just done read this book?  Well, to be honest I grew up without much of a desire to read.  I didn’t really like it.  I’m a bit of a slow reader, a visual learner, and Calvin & Hobbes, Guinness Word Record books, and Garfield were the only books I remember completing.  So, let’s just say I’m still catching up from the days of comic books and playing outside…and beginning to really enjoy reading.

The Good:

Eye-Opening.  When you dive into the spiritual realm, it is truly an eye-opening experience.  The unseen is a fascinating place to take your mind, and when you begin to imagine the spiritual warfare that is happening behind closed doors, it truly opens your mind to what could be happening.

Just Said “Wow” Out Loud Again.  It’s true; while I was reading this book I would actually say “wow” out loud.  The reality of these temptations were so real life, it was almost shocking at times.

Mind-Reader.  The way Lewis puts the temptations and discussions between tempters, is like he could read minds.  He was a master at finding common temptations and constructing his sentences to take you to times where your mind and temptations were real life experiences.

The Bad:

Mind Tricks.  Not a knock on the book, but was a challenge.  Every time the “Enemy” was mentioned, it wasn’t Satan, it was God.  And when you heard “Our Father”, it was not speaking of “Our Father, Who art in heaven”, but the Great Deceiver himself.  So as you read, you almost had to trick your mind so you can follow the storyline and experience the spiritual battle yourself.

The Grade:  A.  Sure the language was a little older and took some getting used to…but there is a reason this book has been set to plays, quoted by a President, and read by thousands.  It is a fascinating display of behind the scenes literature.  The reader is capture by what is happening behind the scenes and capture by what might happen next to the “the patient”.  Get your mind ready, understand the context, and buckle up for an incredible ride.

 

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What if the Bible ended at Genesis 3?

What if the Bible ended in Genesis 3?  In Genesis 3 we witness the fall of man.  And in the punishment of Adam, God reveal the ultimate punishment of death.  Adam’s heart must’ve just broke.  You are telling me, this all is going to come to an end?  Shades of Ecclesiastes 12:7 come to mind.  As does Romans 6:23, where it tells us the wages of sin is death.  Adam’s, Eve’s, and our choice of sin = the end result is death.

What if the Bible ended there?  What if that was the end of our story?  Returning to dust.  Because there are many in this world that believe that.  That this life is all there is, and when it is over, it is over.

But it’s not the end.  Because of our Redeemer, we can have victory over death.

Let’s take a journey to the story of the Lost Son, returning to his Father.  Maybe you missed the subtle phrases at the end of the reunion, because I did.  Look at the final verse we read in that story…Luke 15:24.

How does the Father describe the son?  DEAD.  But when he came back, he was ALIVE AGAIN.  From death to life.

Please don’t let this be the end of your story.  Because, let me just share with you, that if you have not allowed the Redeemer Jesus to save you, you are dead in your sins…and that is where you will remain for eternity…

BUT…if you trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross, death is not the end!  It is just like in Luke 15 with the Father and his lost son…it will be a celebration in heaven…because you have come home.

To hear/watch the entire sermon go here and click on the 8/20 sermon.

 

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Book Review: The Pastor’s Family

Book Review:  The Pastor’s Family by Brian & Cara Croft

The Good:

It Takes Two.  Probably my favorite aspect of the book is each chapter provides two perspectives:  the pastor and the pastor’s wife.  This did two things.  First, as a pastor it provided encouragement, challenge, and practical training for the years ahead.  Second, it provided a whole new perspective of what the wife feels, deals with, and the challenges they face.  It allows the reader to come away more sensitive to the other spouse and a willingness to see the other side of situations.

Big Eye Emoji.  I was shocked.  Maybe I need to be a better student of church history, but I had no idea of the struggles some of the greatest preachers in history had in their family life.  Marital struggles, parenting regrets, and family difficulty…how was I so naive.  If these fellas struggled, I need to be even more on guard and fight for my marriage, my family, my children.

Heart to Heart.  At the end of each chapter, it allows the husband and wife to ask questions.  Each of these questions were well thought out and are valuable to a ministry marriage.  Put these into practice and allow it to be life-changing material rather than just head knowledge.

The Bad:

For Real.  This is stretching it, but for someone early in ministry there needs to be a warning here.  This book is real and honest.  It speaks of difficulties, depression, struggles…just make sure you are ready to read this.  It acts as a warning, and an important one, but prepare yourself if you are just entering ministry or have a young marriage/family.

The Grade:  A.  Those in ministry need to read this book.  It won’t take you long, but it will have great impact.  It’s highly practical, challenging, and encouraging along the way.  It’s like a pastoral mentor and his wife taking you by the hand and leading you through the next years of your marriage and parenting.  The value goes beyond the price of the book.  Without a godly family, how will you have a godly ministry.  Sometimes we get things backwards…this book will help put you back on track.

Extra Credit:  Read the reflection article on pages 107-109.  It is dynamite.

 

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What If I Can’t Afford a Mission Trip?

Let’s face it.  Mission Trips can be expensive.  Travel expenses, training materials, ministry supplies, possible medical expenses, meals, housing…and the list goes on.  Is the expense worth it?  Absolutely.  I’m on record that short-term mission trips can be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to provide long-lasting spiritual life change.  BUT…there are times when the expense of a trip is simply too much.  So what do you do when you can’t afford to go on a mission trip?  To put it simply, look out your window!

Each year, we host a summer mission project for our junior high students.  It is a mission trip literally in our backyard.  It teaches them how to participate in a mission trip setting, and helps their love for serving others to grow. 

Below are some examples of projects we have done in the past or plan to do in the future that are inexpensive projects that can serve as your summer’s mission trip:

  • Landscape a neighboring apartment complex
  • Yard Work for elderly of your church
  • Help with end of the year cleaning at the local school
  • Plant a community garden
  • Trash pickup along the roads of your community
  • Free Garage Sale for community
  • Vacation Bible School Projects
  • Clean nursery toys
  • Church Spring Cleaning

That should get you started.  Even if you do international trips at your church, I strongly encourage you to try some community projects either in the summer or throughout the year.   After all, if you are not serving in the community you are in now, how can you serve in someone else’s community?

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Does God Really Care About the Details of Your Life?

You know, there are times when I study God’s Word, and I get goosebumps when I see God’s hand.  Did you know that the temple of Jerusalem, the city which overlooked the hill of Jesus’ death…were located on what is called a “seismic ridge”, a geological fault line that extends all the way to the Great Rift Valley in Kenya.

You think God didn’t know where Jesus was to killed…where his death would be?  He did!  To think when God created the world, HE knew the very place where this fault line would be…He knew in how he formed the earth that in that specific place…there would be an earthquake that would reverberate from the core of the world he created for man to live.

You don’t think God is in every detail?  You think your life is any different?  That God doesn’t have a plan, that He doesn’t know your suffering, that He isn’t in complete control?  He was, and is, and always will be.

An Excerpt from the sermon called “The Earth Shook”.  (Watch the entire sermon here)

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Young People Need You

Think back to that person that invested in you.  Where would you be without those late night conversations, the advice over a milkshake, or the shoulder to cry on.

Take this man named Myron.  An ordinary guy who decided to invest in the next generation.  And now, while in the midst of a difficult time, he is reaping the reward of all those hours spent helping young people.

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Book Review: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

Book Review:  Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J.D. Greear

The Good:

Clear as Whatever the Opposite of Mud.  I don’t think I have read a description of salvation that was so clear and simple.  Anyone that is confused or even over-confident about salvation, this is a book you could put in their hand with confidence.

Hi, My Name is Jeff, Here’s a Book.  Someone asked me about the book as I started reading it, and I told them after just two chapters I wanted to give the book to everyone I knew.  The content is that good and vital to a proper understanding of the Gospel.

Weren’t You Just Here?  I often would circle back to the very sentence I just read to make sure I got it right.  I don’t often do this in books, but with this one it was different.  The material was so significant, I wanted to make sure I truly comprehended what I was reading.

The Bad:

That’s Some Bold Sauce.  The author was not shy.  There were some bold declarations of theological terms, where he would define them.  Now I didn’t see any errors, but that would be a dangerous path for me to walk down.

The Grade:  A.  With a topic of salvation so central to the Christian faith, this book should be on your shelf to read and refer to on a regular basis.  Don’t let the title of the book put you off.  In fact it seems the author isn’t that big of a fan of the title either.  It’s a small book that packs a punch and will organize what you know, and allow you to be articulate in your witness and knowledge of the Gospel.

 

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10 Things to Say While Someone Is Recording a Snapchat or Instagram Story

Snapchat and Instagram are great for recording memories and pictures of family and friends.  Birthday parties, vacations, achievements, hilarious kid moments…it’s great to have the phone there to video these special moments.  But, when it is a “slow news day”, it’s fun to add a little narration to the stories on Instragram or Snapchat.  Here’s a few to help you take full advantage of those moments.  (Warning:  When using these, they will be much funnier to you than to the person recording the video.)

  1. Hey can someone check out this rash on my back side…seems to be oozing…do we have a mop?
  2. This trash can smells like a small creature has died in there, and has been dead for years.
  3. Hun, did we let the kids out of their cages last night…oh are you recording?
  4. If you’re a Russian spy, does that your secrets are passed down to our kids?
  5. I just told this cupcake “I love you” and I really meant it with all my heart.
  6. They didn’t have wart remover at the pharmacy, so I bought needle-nose pliers at the hardware store. That should do the trick.
  7. How many kids do we have again? I think we may be missing one.
  8. Remember when you cried during that dentures commercial…I don’t think I’ll ever get that one.
  9. A bat just flew in our living room again. Make that two bats.  Whoa, this one is carrying our neighbors pet rabbit.  How we going to tell little Johnny what happened?
  10. Alright, it’s done. All the evidence is buried in the backyard.  What’s for dinner?

 

 

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