Monthly Archives: February 2015

Thorny People

jesus laughing                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thorny People by Rick Burdette
Thorny People
1 Peter 4: 12-19
There are amazing truths in scripture and, no I don’t completely understand them all…I’m on a journey trying to grow deeper and wider in those truths…
And there are a bunch of things I wish God had put in there…and maybe one of the ones I wish He’d put in there was “Jesus Laughed”
Listen I’m grateful for John 11:35…It’s the shortest verse in scripture …Two Words “Jesus Wept”…It was always the first verse we memorized at camp or VBS for points for our team.
But I wish that scripture has a picture of Jesus sitting around the fire one evening with Peter, James and John…And Peter shivering says “God “ I wish it were warmer…and Jesus says…How many degrees? And “Jesus laughed”.
It doesn’t…I don’t know why, but I believe that God has a sense of Humor…and Jesus as “God in the flesh had a great sense of humor…I know this because He made me: And one of the things God does is test us…He doesn’t tempt us to sin…He tests us…He tests our faith. James 1:3 says “The testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
And here’s what I believe God does and our text from scripture teaches us….
Just when we think we’re doing pretty good in our faith…just when we think we’ve become really loving people…God laughs and sends someone into our lives and says, “You think you’ve got this loving stuff down…LOVE THIS ONE!
And you look up into the sky and see this
jesus laughing
Yeah, yeah I know its photo-shoped, but I am created in God’s image…so I believe God laughs…He’s joyful…In fact if a “Merry heart is good medicine” according to Prov. 17:22…God is the best pharmacist around.
Last week we talked about the purpose of thorns in the life of a genuine Christ follower…well this week we talk about loving thorny people….Maybe the hardest tests of our faith on a daily basis…Peter says don’t be shocked by it “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”
Here’s what he means…


We don’t live in a perfectly manicured Garden of Eden…We live in a garden that has been overgrown with sinful weeds and thorns for thousands and thousands of years.
We live in a world that has a different God than those who follow Christ…It’s only temporary, and because he knows, his time is short, and because in wrath he hates the God who created everything, including him and us…he is on the attack Jesus describes him this way in John chapter 10… He’s a thief that comes to kill, steal and destroy the flock…A wolf who attacks the flock and scatters it.” (John 10: 10, 12)
Peter says…Don’t be shocked when he attacks…Don’t think it happens only to you “Be self controlled be alert…He’s you enemy…He’s like a lion ready to pounce from the grass.” (1 Peter 5:8)
What Peter is saying is “Don’t’ get lulled into a false security where Satan convinces you that life is comfortable..Life is safe…people are basically unselfish…because in this place you never see the lion pounce…and you say, “Why did God let this happen to me?”
Be careful if you are a committed follower of Christ living in a world that is always safe and comfortable…that’s not where committed, genuine followers of Christ live!
“How are you participating in the sufferings of Christ if your goal is comfort and safety? How can heaven be the glory you long for if you’ve made this world your “joyful home?”
Maybe it’s time for judgment to begin with the family of God, and if it begins with us what will become of those who do not obey the gospel. Here is an important daily living truth for genuine Christ followers…


One of the most harmful thoughts we could have is this…”God rewards the good with comfort and punishes the bad with suffering.”
Listen to what Jesus teaches….”You have heard that it was said, “By the Pharisees…The law, the shams) Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your father in heaven. He (your Father in heaven) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous…If you just love those who love you…big deal!” (Loose paraphrased by Rick) (Matt 5: 43-46)
There are 2 kinds of suffering for the child of God…1.) Suffering because you live in a sinful world and you’re not exempt from its fallenness. Christians get cancer, have heart attacks, bury loved ones, and lose jobs, all the same things everyone else goes through…
And two, suffering because you are a follower of Christ…like the Iranian Pastor, Youcef Nadarkhan; who was sentenced to death for preaching the gospel and refusing to recant his faith…we don’t live or work in a country that sentences Christian to death…but Peter makes it very clear…as does Jesus…if you live your faith out loud in the dark you will be persecuted…you will be unsettled…the media will trash you as an idiot, you’ll be ridiculed and made fun of…
Peter says, If that happens to you at work, or at school or anytime…don’t be surprised, and even when your head burns…as you struggle to say the right thing in defense…be filled with joy…count it a blessing when your unsettled for this reason because “the spirit of glory and of God rests on you” “If it’s hard for the righteous to be saved what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

Well, if they are the ones insulting and coming after you, just maybe they’ll experience grieve for the first time through you…when they hit…they expect to get hit back…not to be loved and prayed for…Ask the centurion at the foot of the cross how effective this witness is…when you continue to do good in the midst of suffering persecution…your faithful creator notices…and so does the world…
But suffering also exists for those who are not genuine followers of Christ…
“If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal or even a meddler (I love that he added that here!)
If you do bad things…If you break the law…eventually you’ll suffer because of this lifestyle and these choices… unless you’re a psychopath you’ll suffer internally…unless you are “high” constantly, or drunk constantly eventually you’ll have to deal with the emotional toll…if your so high you leave your kid in the car or in the middle of the street…you will suffer…a pain almost beyond the repair. Almost…
Murderers go to jail…thieves get caught stealing, criminals…almost always get caught…meddlers find no one trusts them…even their other medley friends…and they are some of the most joyless people you will ever meet.
And if they do not suffer according to the law…there is an ultimate judgment…without a Savior without salvation and forgiveness, renewal and rebirth…Hell is forever…whether you die in your sin or are living in it when Christ returns scripture teaches something about eternal suffering…”No one wants to stand before the Great White throne…Not me!!
Rev. 20: 11-15
If you died in your sin and your spirit is in Hades waiting for this day…or if you are living in your sin and have not accepted a Savior…Hell is the destination you face…not because God wants to send you there, but because you have not accepted His son’s suffering and death on the cross for your salvation…you’ve never died to your sin, been buried and resurrected to life through His eternal spirit…old time preacher’s had a very true saying…”those who are only born once will die twice but those who are born twice will only die once.”
It’s not a physical death we should fear…its spiritual death, eternal death…the 2nd death.
Let me end this intense message by sharing this final thought.


I know you’ve heard “Hurt people…Hurt people” it’s a phrase that’s probably been way over used; even though it’s true…We “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.”
Those 2 phrases might be true, but understanding them and really loving thorny sinful people is tough.
Thorny people whether they are outside of Christ…or in Christ (and yes I think it’s possible) have not dealt with the thorn or thorns in a spiritually healthy way…
Mean and Hateful is not a personality…it’s a choice…a defense mechanism…and some have projected it. Yes I believe there are choleric and melancholics, extroverts and introverts…type A’s B’s and Q’s.
But bluntness without a filter is a choice…that has become habitual… Meanness or hurtfulness isn’t your nature…it’s your habit…your choice…some take great pride in it…wear it like a hat of independence…and when you’ve worn that hat for a long time it’s hard to take off….
The consequence of this choice…which can become habitual is “the crucifixion of joy”. If you’re the child of God you are forfeiting your greatest source of strength…”The joy of the Lord is your strength…and it comes now every morning.
Galatians 5: talks about those who live by the Spirit of God and those who do not…and verse 22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. …against such things there is No Law”
You know what those last few words mean…No…what they mean is “No law of what is right and no law of what is wrong can make you have those characteristics …no law grows that fruit in your life…only God’s spirit grows that kind of fruit…and the 2nd one right after love…(JOY)
The healthy, scriptural way to deal with our past, our sins, our hurts and insults is through a life surrendered to God, a life lived under the influence of his Spirit…
If you are a Christian…God didn’t make you mean…He’s suppose to be at work within you making you like Jesus “Since we live the by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another”. (Gal 5:26)
And as you deal with thorny people outside of Christ remember, “Our struggle isn’t about flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 5:12)
It’s not easy to keep loving the person that pokes you…hurts you…and maybe you need to not be around that person…but maybe it will help to realize “they are owned by the Prince of Darkness…their thoughts are invaded by the ruler of darkness…they are indeed, Lost.”

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Help Others On The Road


Help Others on the Road by Rick Burdette

Galatians 6:1-6:10



I remember a couple of years ago being at Mom’s on a Friday to cut grass and the riding lawn mower wasn’t acting right…and before you call me a Whimp about using a riding mower…it’s almost 3 acres. The engine was running fine, but the transmission was slipping and the belt needed to be adjusted…the first step was to take off a cover plate…not at problem…the second step was to get both rear wheels off the ground….problem!!! I tried lifting one side and scooting a cinder block under it with my foot…I tried (not intelligently) to pick up the back-end and set it on the cinder block alone. It was too heavy to move by myself. It was too big a job for one person.

So I went inside and got my big brother Sam. We lifted the rear of the tractor together and set it on the cinder block…then after I adjusted the pulley and belt we lifted the tractor blade off the block and put it on the ground.
Sam is an awesome big brother. He even took Mom and I out to eat after I was done…
After we get through I thought…”you know there are some things that are just too heavy for someone to carry alone…” It’s the Christian principle we see here in Galatians 6…when it comes to sin, spiritual burdens and struggles some of them are too big for us to carry alone.

Solomon, the Preacher writes in Ecclesiastics 4: 9,10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down his friend can help him up, but pity the man who yells and has no one to help him get up.”

Pity the man (I hear Mr. T’s “Pity the Fool”) in the back of my head…who falls down…He stumbles, he trips, he’s hurt…”He’s Fallen and he can’t get up”

He’s alone, no first alert call button, and there’s no one to help him get up…Could anything be worse?….Well maybe if two or three people showed up and just kicked the stuffin’ out of him while he was alone.

If we take the next step: And we follow Jesus into the unknown of the future, we must be aware of others who are on the journey with us…some who need…


I don’t know why it happens, but many times when someone falls into the trap of sin…people immediately respond with judgment, isolation, the cold shoulder and the condescending “Look”

Folks I’m not saying that we should treat sin lightly…I just don’t think we should treat sinners as if we aren’t!
“Brothers…(He’s writing to Christians about Christians) if someone is caught in a sin….” You who are spiritual should restore him gently.”

The word picture in the original Greek is “A Snare” An animal caught in a trap.
Satan isn’t nearly as powerful as God! But he is powerful…We are warned to be self-controlled and alert…Our enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1Peter 5: 8)

He’s not a kitty-cat…He’s an enraged lion…Paul lets us know how he operates in Eph 6:10-12

Satan plans, he schemes, he works with his dark forces, behind the scenes preparing snares, laying traps.
…And we know for sure…”someone’s going to get caught….”How do we know?…because every single one of us has stepped into the snare and I’m going to address what our text addresses….Christians caught in the snare, and those of us who claim to be spiritual that find them caught.

We will always be prone to sin, because of our nature, even after the Holy Spirit moves in, sin still attracts, we still are drawn to its pleasure…even if it only last a “season”

But there are those times as Christians…getting caught in Satan’s snare is more likely…

…1st when we’re baby’s in Christ…newer Christians with not a lot of foundation or roots. In fact I often tell new believers…be careful because after your commitment publicly here in Church…Satan’s going to test that commitment privately in the world.

…the 2nd is close to the lst…it’s after a spiritual commitment…Satan will test it…and God will let it be tested….After Jesus baptism came the wilderness and Satan’s temptations. Often when God’s Spirit moves in us to take the next step….following Jesus into the unknown of faith Satan wants us to trip over worldly stuff early in the journey.

…And the 3rd scares me the most when it comes to the church…it’s when we get so proud of who we think we are that we believe “no snare or trap” will catch us. Its why God’s word warns “Pride goes, before the fall and a haughty Spirit before destruction” (Prov. 16:18)

Arrogance is the greatest hindrance to a Spiritual heart.

When we read” “But watch yourself or you also may be tempted…If anyone thinks he is something when his is nothing he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to someone else…”

How often does a critical judgmental person who claims to follow Christ…and love his brother or sister, find themselves broken when their son gets high, or their daughter get arrested, or their marriage hits rocky times?

It’s so easy to feel O.K. about myself if I compare my situation to someone in trouble. God’s word warns, be careful about thinking your something with this comparison…it will make you arrogant…and you sure can’t lovingly restore anyone with this kind of heart.

Each of us in Christ have two loads to carry….our own…our lives, our relationship with God, using our gifts and talents…and our brother or sister who finds the burden too hard to lift on their own.
There is an aspect to being caught in Sin that has to be addressed….


“Do not be deceived God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction, the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (v. 7-8)

I believe with all my heart what John says in his first letter
1 John 3: 4-10

There is a huge difference between falling in a mud puddle and falling in a mud puddle and wallowing around in it.

What happens when we sin…we break God’s law…we need to repent and be cleansed. God has promised to do that….1 John 1:9 says If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness:…then is goes on
“If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in us.”
This passage is written to Christians…Sin is still a struggle…the remedy is repentance and confession…not secrecy and slavery to it.

But that is not what we want to do…especially if comparison’s to others is our standard instead of a relationship with Christ. I’ll hide it…conceal it, pretend it doesn’t exist in my life…”Me…struggle with sin? “Not any more”…that statement says…God, you’re a liar.

So we remain addicted to internet porn…(Hidden behind closed doors naturally) We pretend to love our wives like Christ loved the church…but treat them with harshness and criticism privately…We pretend to be upright, white collar prefect example’s of what church goers are…all while we present one thing to the community…the God who sees everything, and nothing in all creation is hidden from…knows…It’s unconfessed, hidden from people, disguised with pride…As Paul the Apostle says “Its become our Master”

Instead of revealing sins truth…letting confession break it’s chains, sharing life and helping others who wander toward the same traps…we continue in it. Until possible we get caught…the door comes open, our mate walks out, the mask is painfully ripped off.

Folks, John the Beloved clearly says “there is Sin that leads to death…and sin that does not lead to death” I know which one I want to struggle with.

A genuine authentic walk with God involves a very real battle with Sin…He knows that…had given us victory over it in Christ…and a Spirit who reminds us to be “Holy” even when we’re not.

It would be easy to give up and give in…wouldn’t it…or pretend it’s not true for me? That’s why our text ends.

“Let us not become weary in doing good…there will be a harvest for and authentic Jesus follower. Because that’s true…look for who you can serve…look for the next opportunity to do good…to all people…but especially to other Christians who are trying to take the next step towards Jesus.

[One of the greatest heartbreak of the 1988 winter Olympics was the story of speed skater Dan Janzen. Just hours before his race his sister lost her battle with Leukemia. She’d battled it for 9 years. Heartbroken he took the track to race for his sister…when the gun sounded he sprinted from the starting line only to have his skates lose traction causing hi to slam into the protective barriers in the lst corner. 4 days later in the 1000 meter race…he fell again. Our entire country mourned for him and with him.
Dan received 1,000’s of letters. Sports illustrated carried the story of 1 of them… It came from Mark Arrowood, a disabled young man from Doylestown, PA Mark wrote…

Dear Dan, I watched you on T.V. I’m sorry you fell 2 times. I am in the Special
Olympics. I won a gold medal just after my Dad died. Before we start the games
we have a saying that goes like this…
“Let me win, but if I can’t win, let me be brave in the attempt” I want you to have
my gold medal. I didn’t like to see you not get one.]
Try Again in 4 more years!

Inside the envelope was a gold medal from a track and field event from the Special Olympics

Dan Janzen did try again in 4 years…He won 2 gold medals…and inside the presentation case at his home…hang 3 gold medals.

May we have the spiritual heart of this young man…when people fall may we be willing to surrender our gold medals so they can get back up and try again.

The Death Wish

charles Bronson

The Death Wish by Rick Burdette

Luke 15:11-15:12


Luke 15: 11-12


Have you ever wanted someone to die?

I have! I remember my father’s battle with cancer…it had ravaged his entire body…He only weighed 135 pounds when it began, but after battling it for a year…the last six months being the worst…he probably tipped the scale at 90….the chemotherapy….the I.V.’s all the surgeries…At 80 my Dad’s earthly body had wasted away…he was finishing the race…and I’m not ashamed to say that in those last 2 weeks I wanted my father to die…

I know Jesus was his Savior…had been since his early teens and reaffirmed through his recovery after losing a leg in world War II. He was ready, Mom was ready, my brother and sister and I were ready…and we were praying for the Lord to take him home…I didn’t want him to die because I hated him, or because I couldn’t wait to get my inheritance, I wanted him to die because home was better than here.

Our text starts our: “There was a man who had two sons.” This story is almost always referred to as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”.

But it’s not just the prodigal that’s emphasized in the story…as the story opens all three major players in the story are mentioned…the father, the younger son, and the older son…maybe a better name for the parable would be “The Compassionate Father and the Two Lost Sons”

The story captures the interaction and the relationship between all three of these individuals…the older son is clearly as important in the story as the younger brother.

In fact the climax of the story occurs in the courtyard at the end. The father is pleading with His oldest son…this sons anger at his father and his younger brother at the end isn’t window dressing..its absolutely essential to the entire parable.

As we look at this story through middle Eastern eyes…there are key factors that emerge…we’ll continue to examine them as we proceed…verse 1. records.
“The younger one said to his father, “Father give me my share of the estate “So, he divided his property between them.”

Such a request meant only one thing in this society… “The younger son is impatient for his father to die.”

It is unthinkable in middle Eastern culture for any son to request his portion of the family wealth while his father is still alive. Every middle Eastern every village understands this instinctively.

This request would never be made…if it were made the father would get very angry and refuse Why? This request means he wants his father to die!”

Not because of cancer…but only out of selfish disrespect for a system in place from Abraham till now. All across the Middle East from Algeria to Iran, from the Sudan to Syria–hold in highest regard the Father’s oversight of the household until his death…at that time he gave his blessings along with his inheritance.

With this truth in mind lets examine what this verse tells us about all three principal characters in the story..beginning with


His request, “Father, give my share of the estate.”

Even this request is a form of mutiny….He uses a long word phrase…the direct natural request would be “I want my inheritance” In Eastern languages this request is two words. Instead he uses 6 words…literally “Give me the share of property that falls to me.”

Why does he want his fathers wealth, but not his inheritance.

Because prodigals always want privilege without responsibility.

In Middle Eastern culture if you accept your inheritance you also accept the responsibility of your families oversight…The oldest carries a double blessing and responsibility, but every son who receives an inheritance stays connected to the clan…administers property for the entire family’s benefit…serves as leader over weddings, funerals and feasts…..He pledges himself to build the house of his father…when you hear the words “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”…that tradition is being carried on (By the way…Jacob wasn’t the oldest son).

The inheritance is usually going to be in property….Land, etc….for a middle Eastern peasant family…Land, family, clan were all one and the same. It bound them together…A man’s security in the Village was his family. His family is more precious than life itself…his family is his social security, his insurance, his physical and emotional well being…in short it’s his substance…his everything.

In this culture its a man’s roots—His foundation…who are you is answered…”I’m from the House
of David”…”I’m a member of the tribe of Benjamin”.

The younger son rejects it all…he does not break the law…He breaks all relationships and His father’s heart….He cares only for himself and sacrifices the family. He doesn’t care if others suffer so long as he gets what he demands….1/3 of the family’s security will be sold so he can play…there’s no gratitude, no partnership with his father or brother.

And the younger son is totally responsible…but the sheep wandered, the coin is inanimate…but this son chooses deliberately to wound his father’s heart and breaks all relationships with the family.

But what about….


From the opening of the story a number of things are evident about him.

He certainly knows what’s going on…In a village community everything is known by everyone.. If he doesn’t know every detail he will by sundown…and when his brother starts to sell off property..all double is removed…his brother has been given his share.

Ecclesiastes reflect this kin of world.

“Do not revile the King even in your thoughts or curse the rich in your bedroom because a bird of the air, may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.” (Ecc. 10:20)

There are no secrets in a small town…or in a middle Eastern village.

In this culture when there is a quarrel the two parties never make up directly… to do so someone would have to lose face and the unthinkable….The process of reconciliation requires a 3rd party called “the mediator”….In this situation, in this culture everyone will affirm the mediator would have been the older brother….its his role to accept or reject.

But in our story…He remains silent…maybe he doesn’t want reconciliation…but its a clear indication of his broken relationship with his father.

When a father dies the older brother in this culture receives the lion’s share of the inheritance and he assumes responsibility for the family…but this brother wants nothing to do with the responsibility of reconciling the brokenness in his family.

His attitude shows that he loves neither his father or his brother enough to try to mend the fracture. It’s an attitude of arrogance….possible that’s why the younger one wants out so badly…we can’t know for sure.

And what can be said of


By granting the request of the youngest son he did what no father is ever going to do. The expected reaction is refusal and punishment. Even know that his son wishes him dead…this father grants freedom even to turn way from him. William Temple has said, “God grants us freedom, even to reject His Love!”

But even more importantly, the father remains the father. He will no severe the relationship with his son. This relationship is broken because of the son’s act, but the father still holds onto his end of the rope…hoping against hope that the relationship will one day be restored.

By doing this He suffers. If the father had disowned the son there would be no possibility of reconciliation…it’s the fathers suffering…his broken heart that provides the possibility for the son’s return, his love will not let go.

All of this let’s us know Jesus has not used a orientail patriarch as a model for God. He breaks all the rules of Middle Eastern culture to present this picture of a father who alone should shape our image of God as our heavenly father.

Sharing this view of God the Father to the Scribes and Pharisees would be very much like me sharing skin color doesn’t matter at a Nazi Skinhead convention… it would not make any sense or be accepted at all!

But Jesus wasn’t concerned about their view of God…He knew the father…He and the Father are one…before the beginning of time Jesus was with God and was God. The picture He draws of the father in this parable is perfect…because He is that picture in the flesh!

All three actors in our drama reveal their own character from the very start. We know the younger son by what he asks, the father by what he does, and the older brother b y what he does not do.

Out text says “So he divided his property between them” THEM The older son receives his share at this time too. The father is clearly still in authority…yet each son is assigned his share of the family property…this is crucial for us to understand the older brothers reaction at the end of the story.

He feels like he’s earned his inheritance. It’s a payment for his years of service and that attitude has destroyed his love for his father and his brother.

[Kari has a cousin who is fighting cancer and losing the battle…She has been amazingly courageous and open through this journey. But she’s had to have help as well…People who have come into her home…loved her and cared for her, but there have been difficulties as well…One day she noticed little stickers on some of her possessions…and she asked on the ladies that were caring for her what they were and the woman said, “Those are the things I want after your gone”]

The oldest brother had put his stickers on the fathers estate…He hated his brother for taking what he thought belonged to him…and his father for giving it to him…

The youngest brother wanted privilege with no responsibility…and both sacrificed a loving relationship with a compassionate father with a death wish.

Do you see yourself in the story…all of us are there…I just thank God he never let’s go of His end of the rope.