Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Gutter, Where Life Is Meant To Be Lived

the gutter

The Gutter: Where Life is Meant to be Lived by Rick Burdette

Luke 14:15-14:23

THE GUTTER: WHERE LIFE IS MEANT TO BE LIVED.
Luke 14:15-23 (p739) June 12, 2011
INTRODUCTION:
I’ll always remember the old story of Charles Spurgeon being invited to speak at a large London church and on the night before the services Mr. Spurgeon and a friend were returning from dinner when they came upon a drunk passed out in the gutter. He was covered in grime and vomit and Mr. Spurgeon’s friend remarked about how disgusting and revolting it was. As Charles Spurgeon knelt down to help the man he said, “There, but by the grace of God…Go I”.
I believe those are the two reactions everyone experiences when it comes to the gutter-revulsion and compassion, and most of the time…BOTH.
The gutter isn’t clean or sanitized. It’s filled with dirty, broken, messed up people, people who have made horrible choices, people who have reached a point where they no longer care what the world thinks about their appearance, nor do they care themselves.
Craig Gross who established XXX Church, an organization that deals with individuals who struggle with pornography, also tries to bring the gospel of Christ to those engaged in that industry and wrote:
“The gutter can be described in different ways with different terms. Put simply, my gutter is not necessarily your gutter. The gutter is the place where we discover that we need God most. Some would believe the gutter is attached to a lack of money. Wrong, I have seen people with millions lying face down in the gutter. Some believe the gutter is the place with a lack of success. I have seen many gutter-dwellers who would be considered “successful” by the world’s definition. Ask them and they would tell you that their success only masked the misery of the gutter. The gutter is a place believers aren’t willing to go because they remember what life was like when they escaped from it.”
What does the gutter look like? It’s a difficult question to answer. The gutter is often defined by the vantage point from which it is seen. It’s a tough thing to peg, but for a moment let me lay out a workable definition of the gutter: The gutter is the place I am least likely or inclined to go because it is a place where people are not like me; they are not Christian.
For us to become Lambs that Roar the church must become intimately acquainted with the gutter, individually and corporately.
It’s my firm belief that individually our gutter is the place we came from that separated or separates us from Jesus. It all has to do with sin, but while my gutter WAS a place of rebellion, drugs and selfishness, your gutter might be broken relationships, sexual sin, and greediness. Your gutter can be white collar or blue collar. It can be free of vomit and dirt, but covered up with pride and arrogance.
Zaccheaus was in a treetop gutter…and the woman caught in adultery was in a gutter of shame and condemnation. One had a lot of stuff, one had very little, both needed rescuing. The Rich Young Ruler
was in a gutter of self suffering and blind Bartimus couldn’t even see the gutter, but lived in it. Both needed to see the way out of the gutter. One did, the other left blind.
In our story this morning we learn a great deal a about God’s plan for gutter dwellers and how we fit into it as lambs that roar. It starts with…
I GOD’S DESIRE TO CELEBRATE WITH THOSE HE LOVES
“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who’d been invited, come, for everything is now ready.”
When you throw a party you want to share it with people you love. All the planning, all the expense goes to waste if no one shows up.
The best part of the wedding dinner isn’t the food (although my wife loves wedding cake). It’s the best man’s toast, it’s the maid of honor’s story, it’s the hugs, the well wishes. It’s sharing this time with people you want there and who want to be there. It really is all about the relationship more than the banquet.
And for whatever reason God desires that with all people. He loves the world. He loves everyone-black, white, male, female, young, old, rich, poor. He is not a respecter of people. His banquet is prepared for all.
His house is so big you cannot fill it up. His Table has enough chairs for everyone.
“Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God” The blessing doesn’t come because of the feast. The blessing comes because you eat with the King and with tons of other people who love the King and each other.
Maybe that’s why those who have been invited to this banquet from the gutter are so grateful. Why would a King want to be with me? Well, that’s what makes God so amazing in His grace.
But on the other hand, he won’t make you accept the invitation.
II EXCUSES REVEAL PRIORITIES
“But they all alike began to make excuses…” Most of us know Israel is the prime example Jesus is referring to here. John 1:11 says, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him”.
Israel was expecting a Messiah. He’d been promised for generations. The prophets had foretold His birthplace, His lineage and His leadership. They were the Bride, if you will, awaiting the Bridegroom, and unless he showed up they rejected him, even with John the Baptist being the best man to introduce his entrance into the wedding feast.
It’s important to note it wasn’t the gutter dwellers who rejected Jesus. They flocked to him. He ate and drank with them. He was in relationship with them and they with him.
The excuses came from these who claimed to be God’s best friends. The rejection of the invitation came from those who expected the best seats at the table, but didn’t like the way the bridegroom was dressed when he showed up. And they really hated the fact that he invited everyone to the feast.
Mike Yacconelli in “Messy Spiritually” says:
“According to his critics, Jesus did “God” all wrong. He went to the wrong places, said the wrong things, and worst of all, let just anyone into the kingdom. Jesus scandalized an intimidating, elitist, country-club religion by opening membership in the spiritual life to those who had been denied it. What made people furious was Jesus’ “irresponsible” habit of throwing open the doors of his love to the whosoever’s, the just-any-ones, and the not-a-chancers like you and me.”
The reason we make excuses is, “We don’t want to go!” (Gee, Kari, I know you want me to go to the Micheal Buble concert with you, but I’ve got to trim my toenails)
The excuses mentioned in our story are “I bought some property I’ve got to check it out,” “I just bought some oxen and I want to see how they work,” “I just got married and need to go be with my wife (it’s really her that doesn’t want to come you understand) Send our regrets”.
Folks it doesn’t matter what excuse you put in there the reason is still the same: I don’t want to be there. I have other priorities. You’re not important enough for me to take the time out of my schedule. I love my stuff more than I want to celebrate with you.
It’s no wonder the owner of the house, the one who prepared the feast at great expense for those he loves, gets angry and send his servants into the gutters.
If we really believe that God is the one who has prepared the great banquet and sent out the invitations then we also learn a great deal about how he feels about being way down on the list of peoples’ priorities. He will not be satisfied with making your top five. He will not feel good about coming in 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th, no matter how good your excuses are.
Matt 6:33 finds Jesus saying, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Not second, not third. Seek it first. But, Rick, I’ve got important things to do right now. I’ve got some things I need to accomplish for me. And more and more God falls farther down the list of priorities. Satan is the God of busyness and the urgent. He will continually put important and urgent things in your schedule before God, before His church, before celebrating Him. And we excuse ourselves from His presence only to find what we thought would be a onetime exception has become the rule, but surely God will understand. Right?
Not according to scripture. Saying God is in your life doesn’t make it true. Loving God means you keep His commandments. Words without actions=dead faith. Excuses might make us feel better, but they make God angry. ”The owner of the house became angry.” You mean God gets angry?
Yep. Both Israel and the church need to understand the nature of God. The owner of the house, God, hasn’t changed nor will He. Listen to His directions to the house of Israel:
Deut 6:4-9, 13-18 (p130)
Here is God saying love me first, love me with all you’ve got. Show your children how much you love me every chance you get because it will be very easy to become just like the people who surround you. I’m jealous and I won’t share you. If you want my blessings, if you want to receive my promise, remember to put me first in your priorities. Excuses make me mad.
Let me end with this earth shaking truth:
II GOD SENDS HIS SERVANTS TO THE GUTTER FOR A REASON.
And that reason is because His son came through the gutter. Jesus wasn’t received by those who expected the invitation, but those who never thought they deserved a seat at the banquet flocked to Him.
Tax collectors, wayward women, the blind, the handicapped, the broken, lepers sought him out, friends cut holes in roofs to get paralyzed friends into his presence. He came and lived in the gutter. He spent his life in the streets and alleys. He walked the roads and county lanes. What drove him there? He came to seek and save that which is lost…He understood it wasn’t the healthy who needed a doctor, but the sick. The Good Shepherd was searching for the lamb who had fallen over the cliff and was trembling on a ledge.
This is the primary reason why Jesus left a Church. He sends us just as He was sent. Even as we gather together on Sundays and Wednesdays it’s so we can be better “disciple makers.” It’s not so we can just sit around his table and get fat. It’s not time to set down yet, not when there are so many empty seats. We’ll have time to enjoy the feast, but until the Bridegroom returns we still have invitations to deliver.
I’ll bet the servants in our story knew where the highways and byways were. I bet they knew where the gutters were, probably because they’d been there before. But as they served the owner of the house they received tons of rejections and excuses. But they also learned where the most effective responses come from–the gutter. It’s where life is meant to be lived. It’s the place lambs roar the best. It’s usually a place you’ve been before and it scares you to death to go back there.

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The Cross And The Manger

cross-and-manger

The Cross And The Manger by Rick Burdette

Colossians 1:15-1:23

THE Cross And The Manger

Col. 1:15-23

INTRODUCTION:

“A Baby born in Bethlehem
His hands, soft and gently curled
But held within their dimples grasp
The hope of the whole world”

We’ve been seeking to answer the important question what does Christmas really mean?

It really does mean that the word of creation became flesh…so God could be our redeemer, it really does mean that God would put his feet in our shoes so he could walk as and example for us to follow.

But maybe the most important truth I can share with you this Christmas isn’t about celebrating one day…It isn’t about one season of crazy hectic shopping and gift giving. The real meaning of Christmas is found in God’s plan to save mankind from their sins…not only does Christmas involve the manger story, but also the cross. The real meaning of Christmas is the miraculous story of God’s plan to rescue us by becoming one of us.

It is a story of hope, peace, joy and love…where the light penetrates the darkness
Luke 2: 8-14
“Don’t be afraid – this is good news of great joy for everyone”

Christmas doesn’t seem like good news and great joy for everyone I meet. The homeless drunk I sat talking with last week wasn’t experiencing too much good news and joy, neither was the woman who was facing the first Christmas after her Dad’s death, or the guy who was trying to figure out where his kids would be on their Christmas after his divorce… The songs seem kind of hollow…the shopping is a chore, the cold doesn’t get any warmer because someone says “Merry Christmas”

But I believe with all my heart Christmas was made for those with a broken heart, not the false, glitzy, tensile thing we sometimes call Christmas, but the real Christmas. You will not find the good news of great joy in a diamond box on the restaurant table that makes you go “Oh my Gosh…Oh my Gosh!” you will not find hope in the S.U.V. stuffed in a giant stocking under an even more gigantic Christmas tree, You won’t discover it in a bottle, or the eggnog, its found in God’s plan and His purpose, no matter how difficult the circumstances might look.

Jesus is the one who holds all things together.

I THE GLUE OF HEAVEN

Jesus created everything, things in heaven and on earth, things that are visible and invisible, thrones, powers, rulers, authorities…all were created by him and for him. He existed before all those things were created, and he is the glue that holds ever thing together. (John 1)

[Jesus isn’t some celestial watchmaker that put this world of a timepiece together, wound it up and just lets it run on its own! All creation was made by him and for him, His plan is to redeem and rescue it. God had to be born of a virgin in a manger as part of this plan foretold by Micah and Isaiah the prophets. Jesus would live a sinless life as our example, die in our place to satisfy God’s perfect justice on a cross. He would rise from the dead …”the first fruit of the resurrection,” but all this was planned, All this is God working in ways no one could have imagined, or envisioned.]

Can you imagine being a 16 year old pregnant Jewish unmarried girl, engaged, betrothal to a carpenter, who has been informed. by angelic messenger. “Greetings you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you…don’t be afraid, your going to have a child, a little boy, He will be called the Son of the most high. God will give him the throne of David, He’ll reign over the house of Jacob forever. His Kingdom will never end.

How’s this going to happen? I’m a virgin? (Mary) the angel answers “The Holy spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will over shadow you, so the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God”

Mary’s response it’s even more remarkable “I’m the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as the Lord has said”
“Mary was nearly divorced, forced to become an immigrant in her teens, one day she would witness her firstborn’s gruesome execution. I wonder if any of us have ever realized that Mary was probably only in her mid-forties when she stood at the foot of the cross? She watches her beloved oldest child, arrested, beaten, tortured and displayed out for the world to see…nailed to a cross.

Terry Ocasey writes “From upon the cross, her Jesus deserted by his brothers, who mocked his messianic pretensions (John 7:5) speaks to his Mom and his best friend “Mom, John will take care of you. John care for Mom” (John 19: 26, 27)

If you ever wonder if God can bring good out of bad, think of Mary, from the manger to the cross she knew Jesus was the Savior of the world, the glue that holds all creation together.

“For God was please to have all his fullness dwell through Him and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, How? “By making peace through His blood shed on the cross…once we were alienated from God…His evenness because of the way we think and act…but now we have been reconciled by Christ’s physical body through death.

His shed blood is the glue that reunited us with God, that is, if we’ve accepted Him, and received the gift of salvation He’s offered.

But Jesus is much more than the one who connects us to God…He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the first born from among the dead…
What does Christmas really mean for God’s children…

II WE ARE A FAMILY WITH AN ETERNAL INHERITANCE.

As we get older the earthly celebrations of Christmas change, we’ve buried our Mom’s and Dads, relatives and friends, even children, don’t get me wrong, there’s still “joy” with grand babies, and new marriages, but the toys that use to excite us don’t really matter as much. (Although I’ve never gotten that new S.U.V in a stocking under a gigantic tree.)

I can only share that I believe Christmas really becomes what it’s suppose to be when the church, God’s people become family church isn’t a place you go, but a family you belong to and love. it won’t replace the earthly family members you’ve lost, but it will powerfully enrich your life and ministry when you share it with others who feel the same.

The last mention of Mary, Jesus mother is when she is present at the Pentecostal preparation Prayer meeting in Jerusalem. Its after the resurrection and everyone is praying aloud, including Mary, not just with Jesus disciples but with her own boys; Jesus brothers have come to believe.

Jesus, the head of the body, His church has brought together ….family, ….family by blood and by His blood.

We really do need each other…life is meant to be shared, and if we share it with a family devoted to the same father, lead by the same big brother, sharing the same spirit of compassion and purpose—the Joy of Christmas isn’t just 1 day of year its 24/7 – 365!.

I love this story…
Mamie Adams always went to a branch post office in her town because the postal employees there were friendly. she went there to buy stamps just before Christmas one year the lines were particularly long. Someone pointed out that there was no need to wait in line because there was a stamp machine in the lobby. “I know, ” said Mamie, ‘but the machine won’t ask me about my arthritis.” (Taken from Bits and Pieces, December, 1989, p.2)

God has not designed the church, the body of Christ, as a machine that dispenses spiritual “Stamps” This body, with Jesus as its head is connected to each other by something much stronger…love…we care about each other, we hurt for others who are hurting…just like Jesus did.

Christmas time is difficult for many, because people are absent, chairs are empty, while they see others with joy and excitement, loneliness creeps in.

Jesus does something amazing in his family, He connects us, He joins us at the table with an awesome communion.
When the writer to the Hebrews says “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb 10:25)

He’s sharing “We are a family, we need to share life, and worship together, but some are disconnected, some break the bond. Please don’t, because unless we encourage and love each other in Christ we will not be prepared for this return, that day He comes for His forever family. His body.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Pastor and theologian who was an enemy
of the Nazis because he refused to go along with their state idea of a church that practiced the anti-Semitism of the Nazis. In fact, he was a hunted man who upheld authentic Christian principles. As a part of the German underground he was not safe to worship openly. Bonhoeffer knew there was no other community
and fellowship like that experienced within the Body of Christ. He said”
Baptism incorporates us into the unity of the Body of Christ, and the Lord’s supper
fosters and sustains our fellowship and communion…in that Body”. During
the Nazi reign, Bonhoeffer was cut off from other believers, and it took a toll
on him. Donald LaSuer says “Bonhoeffer’s painful discovery is instructive
for us. Cut off from the nurturing fellowship of other Christians, he felt a deeper
hunger for the fellowship that was no longer available to him. Like a hungry man
who knows the taste of bread though he can no longer reach and break from the loaf, he knew the power of fellowship when it was painfully absent”.

When we come together for worship, especially when we meet around the Lord’s table we have a chance to experience a fellowship, a deep connection, a spiritual glue that helps us remember how much our Lord loves us so we in turn can love like him.

Colossians 1:23 says “If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel”.

Satan knows the only way we can continue in faith, with a solid foundation is to share real hope, to be encouraged and to be people who encourage others with “Good News.” And Paul knows it’s a conditional statement, “If you do this…this will happen.”

If you stay connected you’ll be healthy, you’ll grow in Christ you’ll be a person of hope, if you separate yourself from the Lord’s supper, and his family, you won’t.

(Growing up on of my favorite T.V. shows uses Gilligan’s Island.
There were very few of these episodes that you could consider emotionally
touching. But I do remember one. Gilligan had gotten his feelings hurt and decided to move away to the other side of the Island to live alone in a cave.
Immediately, this became a miserable existence for Gilligan–he was all alone.
But also miserable for everyone else on the island-one of their own was
no longer among them, in fellowship with them…and there was a terrible
void. They missed him at the dinner table. They missed his jokes, his laughter,
his gentleness. They even missed his clumsy screw-ups. I think at one point
in the episode they were sitting around the dinner table taking turns talking
about the specific things they miss about him. So what did they do? I think, it began with The Skipper. He decided to leave the rest and go live with Gilligan, so he wouldn’t be alone. Then another person did the same. Then another, Until finally, all seven people were together again on the other side of the island living in Gilligan’s cave. In true spiritual community, we either make it together, or we
don’t make it, at lease not in a healthy way.)

Here’s a fun exercise for you to do when you have time. Use your concordance
and find all the scriptures from Acts to Revelation in which you find the word
“together” and see what early Christians did “together”. Here’s a sampling:
Meeting together. Praying together. Sharing material things with one another.
Planning and strategizing together. Working together. Standing together when
under attack. Jesus Christ never intended for any of his followers to follow him in
isolation from other believers. Wherever it’s possible, Christ intends for all of us to be in this together; not just for one hour on Sunday mornings- not just during “official” church meetings, but through the day to day course of life.

The reason they missed Gilligan is they’d shared life together, worked together, hoped for rescues together, eaten together, been shipwrecked together. When Gilligan wasn’t there, they weren’t complete.

I’ve known people who have gone to hide in their car because they got their feelings hurt, but when no one came to join them they wondered why. Its because they hadn’t done the “together” part. But man isn’t it pretty special when you hurt and you’re in the cave by yourself and you look up to find “The Skipper saying “I’ve missed you little buddy?”