Monthly Archives: January 2016

THE TOWEL THAT CAN ONLY BE PICKED UP BY YOU

 

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The Towel That Can Only Be Picked Up by You by Rick Burdette

2 Corinthians 1:1-1:7

THE YEAR OF THE TOWEL – The Towel That Can Only Be Picked Up By You
2 Corinthians 1:1-7 (pg. 803) January 31, 2016

Introduction:

[“The evening meal was in progress and, the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power; and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around them.]

We are told in Luke’s gospel, that right after Jesus says He will be betrayed by someone who shares this meal with Him that the disciples begin to argue…they discuss among themselves who it will be…and the argument begins to focus on which of them was considered “the greatest” (Luke 22:24).

Pretty human behavior huh? They try to overcome their fears of failure by posturing for power…Can’t you imagine this dispute includes things they’ve done, places they’ve been with Jesus, sacrifices they’ve made…Things they thought made them great in God’s eyes. But God’s eyes are right there looking at them, listening to the argument…so God speaks…Listen:

LUKE 22:25-30 (p. 735)

I wonder if it was around this time that Mrs. Zebedee…James and John’s mom asks… “Now about that table, how ‘bout letting my boys sit right next to you…they’ve earned it, haven’t they?”

And chaos breaks out as the others become indignant and jealous.

I don’t know the chronology of how it all happened…but it all happened right before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion…probably within 24 hours.

So intentionally picking up a servant’s towel to meet someone else’s need probably wasn’t even something they considered. This would make the others see me as weak and anything but great…each of the King’s followers refused…so the King Himself picked up the towel and served them.

Clearly this King was different…even in the midst of the most troublesome and heart wrenching time of His earthly life…His focus is on the needs of others.

He is…

I. THE COMFORTER IN ALL OUR TROUBLES

The Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Corinth…it’s his second letter to them, and the Corinthians have shown very human behavior in their journey to follow Christ…divisions and arguments about greatness and popularity, sexual sins, suing each other, commitments made and broken, concerning giving, even doctrinal struggles with the resurrection and worship…This Church was filled with people who had sinful pasts…but had been washed, cleansed and redeemed through the Holy Spirit, but old ways are hard to forsake…selfishness is hard to crucify. Servant towels are hard to pick up, especially when your focus is on your own struggles…“My feet are dirty…I need a slave to wash them!” is almost always how each of us think…it’s natural.

Thinking about comforting others when you need comfort is supernatural…thinking about others dirty feet when yours will be nailed to a cross shortly is…well, nothing short of God-like…no wonder Paul says:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.”

Jesus said much the same thing when He told us “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The “these things” he had just told His disciples was “I’m leaving…I’m going back to my Father…and you can’t come right now…but I’ll come back for you one day.”

One of the greatest schemes of Satan is to try and make us believe our lives here on earth should be about comfort and self fulfillment…that most of our 79.5 years should be…without conflict…or trouble…it’s a lie…

SHOW E COMMERCE COMMERCIAL

It’s natural to hope for good things…hope is one of the two things we can’t live without…Air and hope are essential. But you don’t need a “comforter” if you’re always comfortable…and one of the most important motivations for our faith is…Our hope isn’t in the temporary…our hope isn’t in the things we see…our hope is in the eternal and the things we can’t see! In our text Paul mentions troubles, suffering, and distress…but 8 times in those 5 verses he mentions God’s comfort.

And for those who have experienced this comfort in the midst of suffering, trouble and distress…He says, “We don’t pick up the towel of Jesus only to bitterly cry into it…we pick it up so we can lay it on the wounds of others.

“Our hope is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

“God comforts us…so we can comfort others in trouble.” This is real ministry. And if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ…only you can choose to pick up this towel in your life.

This is why Jesus came and why He saved us. The writer of Hebrews wrote this about Jesus:

HEBREWS 4:14-16; HEBREWS 5:7-9 (p. 840)

God became flesh…He understands suffering, trouble and distress. He faced it all without sinning. He died in our place, was buried, rose again and ascended back to the Father, where He now is, until He returns. Perfect, obedience learned through suffering. He is the source of all salvation…and intercedes for our mercy. He is the High Priest that now represents us before God…and He understands by experience.

How can the world understand the good news of Jesus unless it’s an answer to the world’s bad news?

II. OUR TOWEL OF HOPE IS WHAT HURTING PEOPLE NEED

Our story of God’s goodness is one of the most powerful tools of the Holy Spirit.

You see Jesus said, “God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father if perfect.” (Matthew 5:45-48)

Believers live in the same world as unbelievers. God’s children encounter the same mixture of good and bad according to God’s purposes. But our response to it when it comes to how we relate to people, shows who our Dad is…and our hope for eternity shines…in a very clear difference to the unbelieving world.

If you are a disciple who’s suffered, do you still believe God is good? Do you still believe He loves you and has a plan? I ask that sincerely because you will hear two voices speaking to your spirit in these times…The Holy Spirit who is the comforter…telling you “Take heart, trust God, nothing will touch you that doesn’t pass through Jesus’ nail scarred interceding hands.” But you will also hear from the adversary…the Evil One, the inventor of lies “God must not love you to let this happen…If He was really in control He’d of stopped it immediately. Your plans are over!”

Abraham heard both those voices as he walked up the hill with Isaac. Moses heard those voices as he stood trapped at the Red Sea. Jesus heard both those voices in the garden and as He carried His cross up Calvary. But trust, faith and obedience let God provide a ram, part a sea, and produce a resurrection.

The world needs to know that our God is bigger than any struggle. His plan is at work…and His people really believe it. Our Father, our God, Jesus Christ His Son is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. No matter what the trouble is…He’s in control…Our comfort abounds through Christ, we patiently endure because some day He will wipe away every tear with His own hand.

I’m not sure what kind of towel He’ll use…but it’ll be the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen.

Until this happens each of us have an opportunity to minister to those who have hurt like us…some of the most powerful words of hope that can be spoken are “I know how you feel.”

I would warn you though…be careful about speaking those words if you don’t!

Comforting someone with the same comfort you’ve received is one of the most unselfish and powerful acts of ministry possible. And only you are able to pick up this towel…no one can share your experiences and God’s goodness in your life, but you.

It takes trust and sometimes time to walk back into the burn unit, or the hospital, or the recovery group.

But it’s my firm belief that when you use your greatest hurt for ministry you have come to understand God, the Father of compassion and comfort in the most intimate way.

The truth is trouble does one of two things to us…it will make us better…or it will make us bitter…And as a child of God His plan is ALWAYS to make you and me better.

Romans 8:28 promises “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

And then verse 29 tells us His purpose…“So that we might be conformed to the image of His son…that He might be the older brother among many brothers and sisters.”

God is more concerned with molding our character than making us comfortable.

[One of my best friends died a year ago…He’d asked me earlier to preach his funeral while Kari and I were at lunch with He and his wife Alyson. It’s hard to tell you, unless you’ve been there…how emotional that was…6 months later. I got to honor my friend Greg…by fulfilling his wish…Through his battle with cancer Greg, preached, ministered to others, and fought to spend time with his wife and children…including his youngest son’s marriage…He was one of the most others “comforting” people I’ve ever known.

I saw him often during his final weeks and days…The last time I saw him here on earth…He knew I was there, but couldn’t speak…He grabbed for a piece of paper…and whispered to Alyson…to write something…she did, “Greg loves Jesus.” I took the paper and wrote “Rick loves Jesus.”

Greg died 2 days later…And I have no doubt that what he wrote is true…I picture Greg laying down his servant’s towel at the feet of Jesus…and hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Loving Jesus…loving people…it’s what makes the words on paper true.]

Let’s pray.

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The Towel That Brings Hope to the Broken by Rick Burdette

Luke 4:14-4:30

THE YEAR OF THE TOWEL – The Towel That Brings Hope to the Broken
Luke 4:14-30 (pg. 718) January 17, 2016

Introduction:

The other day I was watching a TV show called, “The World’s Most Dangerous Jobs.” Here’s a little of what I saw:

SHOW VIDEO CLIP OF “The World’s Most Dangerous Jobs”

The Alaskan Monarch was trapped in an ice field. The captain and first mate are swept overboard…They are getting beaten and crushed in the ice flow and freezing to death. I found myself moving toward the TV and screaming “get them out of there!”

The coast guard helicopter did an amazing job….sending down a basket and rescuing the 1st mate and the captain.

Later in an interview from his hospital bed the captain said, “We broke our rudder…and with no rudder we had no control of the ship.”

“We couldn’t control where the ship went so we were driven into the ice pack and it broke us apart.”

A ship without a rudder is useless. It will be driven by the wind and waves and eventually be torn apart.

When Jesus picked up the towel in John 13 to wash His disciples feet, He was asking His crew to put their hands on the same rudder that had directed His life…and now would direct His death…after the resurrection He would only have a short time with them before ascending back to heaven….He was leaving the ship in their control.

[“My children I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now; where I am going you cannot come.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:33-35)]

The mission of the church is its rudder…It guides and gives direction, even in the winds and storms…so from the very beginning of His ministry, His rudder was firmly in the water and controlled by God’s Spirit.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He anointed me.”

Our mission statement here at Gardenside Christian Church is “Passionately Preparing All People for an Eternity with Christ.”

I love the passionate part…because what You’re passionate about always directs your life.

I. OUR PASSION ALWAYS INFLUENCES WHAT WE PURSUE

True isn’t it? I’ve seen people camp out for 4 days in the cold for basketball or football tickets. I’ve seen people get up at 4:30 am on the Friday after Thanksgiving so they could get a TV for 200 bucks.

Passion is loving something on steroids. You’ll fight for it…sacrifice for it…even die for what you’re really really passionate about.

Passion makes you step out of a landing craft on D day in Normandy. Passion makes you run into a burning building to save your children. Passion directs you to sell everything you have to start a new business or win the girl you love.

Passion isn’t liking something…it’s much much bigger.

By the way, our passion as Christians is spiritually produced and spiritually sustained.

The Spirit of the Lord must be upon us…annointing us…or THERE IS NO PASSION for lost and broken people. And this new commandment from Jesus to love people is clearly the rudder that is to guide our ship. Because without a doubt it was the rudder that guided His ship.

Luke 4 is the official launching of Jesus’ ship…it the mission statement of the Messiah…it’s about people…poor people…imprisoned people…blind people…and oppressed people…

When He rolls up the scroll…prophecy from Isaiah…verse 21 says “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

“Today the hope of poor, imprisoned, blind and oppressed people is HERE.”

What happened to the spiritual passion of people in the Church for these broken souls?

Could it be that there was never a spiritual passion to begin with?

Maybe for many their Christianity, or so called Christianity, began with an outward obedience to be baptized…or join the church but there was no passion about their sin and the need for a savior. There was no real new birth, or death burial and resurrection. I will tell you plainly “yes” and because of that the purpose of their lives never really changed, nor does their thinking.

Listen to what the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians:

1 CORINTHIANS 2:9-16 (p. 794)

Folks, there is no such thing as a non-Spirit filled and influenced Christian.

The mind of Christ is our rudder…The Holy Spirit is the one who keeps us on course and directs us…not the world.

Churches that end up spiritually like the Alaskan Monarch…have lost their rudder or are piloted by people who don’t think you really need one. You can drift along for a while, but eventually you will crash…and the crew will be swept overboard.

And since we are to be directed by the mind of Christ…clearly revealed in our text.

II. THE CHURCH IS A COAST GUARD RESCUE BOAT, NOT A CRUISE SHIP

Anybody here ever been on a cruise ship? Yeah? Me too. Do you enjoy it? It seems everyone on staff exists to serve you…make you comfortable…FEED YOU. The meals are spectacular!!!

I meet a lot of folks who think the Church is their cruise ship…maybe because their rudder’s broken.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 records the Apostle Paul commanding believers to “not quench the Spirit.”

He wouldn’t tell us not to if it wasn’t a possibility.

The important question that must be answered is this…What is your motive for wanting the Holy Spirit in your life?

[Frances Chan in his book “Forgotten God” says, “The Holy Spirit is not a commodity to be bought or traded according to our individual wants, whims or even just needs. You cannot have a real discussion about the Holy Spirit without calling our motives into question.”

“Why do you want the Holy Spirit in your life? Is it for power? Is it for your own betterment and purposes? Or is it because you want to experience all that God has for you. Is it because you love the Church and desire to be a better servant.”]

1 Corinthians 12 tells us that each true follower of Christ is given a “manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…gifts apportioned to each individual as He wills.” (vs. 7,11)

The Holy Spirit is intentional…He has a purpose and He has a passion… “the common good…the edification of the Church…the power to make disciples.

He never convicts us, calls us and fills us so we can be on a cruise ship. It’s always so we can be equipped to rescue people from a coast guard vessel.

He never asks us to pick up a towel so we can lay it on the deck to get a sun tan. He always asks us to pick it up so we can wash feet…the feet of the poor, imprisoned, blind and oppressed.

So, if that is not what has happened in your life…either you’ve never been filled with Him, or you’ve quenched Him.

Satan is a cruise ship director…the Holy Spirit is trainer of medics on the battlefield.

It’s my belief that if you allow non passionate Holy Spirit directed individuals to fill places of leadership, no matter where that may be in the Church you create a cruise ship attitude instead of a rescue boat.

[I got to share with my buddy David Kibler at the Kentucky Minister’s Retreat this past Monday and Tuesday. He ended his session in this way…I’m going to have 3 people come up front right now representing 3 types of people…____________ represents the hard core lost…those folks who have no relationship with God at all, and it is plainly evident, ____________ represents those who are lukewarm, they claim to be Christians but there’s no real commitment, they might show up occasionally but there’s no real passion or evidence that Christ influences their lives powerfully. ____________ represents those who are committed. True disciples that are growing, they are bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.

Now let me ask you a question…How much time did Jesus spend with the hard core lost? Let’s say He spent 50% of His time with these people. And the other 50% of his time He spent with the committed disciples. That means He spent 0% of His time with the lukewarm…in fact He doesn’t call these people Christians. He says lukewarm people…not Christians, not believers, not disciples…lukewarm people He wants to spit out of His mouth because it’s so disgusting.

So, why do we want to spend so much of our time with these people in church? Shouldn’t we follow the example of Jesus and spend our time equally divided between the lost and between the truly committed? It seems to me if we do that…because that’s what I’ve committed myself to…that our rudders in the water and we will be rescuing drowning people, and training committed people to do the same.]

Let’s pray.

THE TOWEL THAT WIPES AWAY GRUDGES

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The Towel That Wipes Away Grudges by Rick Burdette

Matthew 18:15-18:22

THE YEAR OF THE TOWEL – The Towel That Wipes Away Grudges
Matthew 18:15-22 (pg. 688) January 10, 2016

Introduction:

There’s the story of two men who appeared before a judge on charges of assault and disturbing the peace…

After the judge had listened to both sides and surmised that both men claimed to be church going “Christians” he said, “you know the Bible says you should have settle this matter out of court.”

And one of the two men who had a terrific shiner said to the judge “your honor, that’s exactly what we were trying to do when the cops showed up!”

Forgiveness is one of those things we talk a lot about in church and in our Sunday School classes and small groups but living it out in the real world gets a whole lot tougher!

When Jesus picked up the towel to wash His disciples’ feet…He humbled Himself…The Lord and Master put Himself in the place of a servant…and then very clearly said, “I did this as an example of how you should do the same.”

But His example of forgiveness…is an even harder towel to pick up than the one He picked up to wipe away the dirt from His disciples feet.

If you’ve ever had someone strike you on the cheek, either verbally or physically you know how hard it is to turn the other one.

When your child gets bullied in school and you call another parent to talk it out and instead of “I’m sorry this happened” you hear…“If your kid weren’t such a whimp he could take care of it himself.”

Or your co-worker throws you under the bus by telling him the order that wasn’t made was your fault…and it was his.

Or you hear someone has gossiped about your family…they talk about your child’s mistake, or your wife’s dress or your father’s drinking problem like it’s a funny joke.

Things get a lot dirtier don’t they? When things move from the sterile discussion in Sunday School to the real world pig pen.

[I had a friend in School that ended up owing the library about 5 dollars in late fees. He went to talk with Mrs. Lemon (yes that was her real name). He thought he could be forgiven the debt as a poor struggling college student. Uhhhh…nope! Even when he tried to explain he was getting ready for finals….no dice….He thought it was unfair…so he went to the bank…got 500 pennies…He put them in a big mason jar filled it with honey and took it to the library…Here’s your money!!! For the stupid late fee!]

I don’t know who originally said, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” But most of the time it’s our philosophy…not just for people in the world, but in the Church as well.

Maybe we don’t give someone a shiner, or put pennies in a jar of honey, but we quit speaking to them…make sure our comments about them are caustic and affirm to others how right it is we’re angry and hurt.

Instead of reconciliation we practice holding a grudge and avoidance…Instead of kneeling in humility to try and wipe the slate clean…we snap the towel at them like in a locker room.

There is no more raw or real subject than forgiveness, and each of us know:

I. IT’S HARD TO WIPE THE HEART CLEAN

Forgiveness is a matter of the heart….and it all has to do with anger.

Listen to Jesus’ words:

MATTHEW 5:21-24 (p. 678)

Jesus lets us know this has been talked about since Cain and Abel…people long ago have been told “Do not murder.”

Murder’s a horrible sin…Cain crossed a line when he invented it by getting angry…picking up a rock and killing his brother….a life ended. His brother’s blood cried out from the ground.

God’s Word says it all began with anger:

GENESIS 4:3-7 (p. 3)

I believe Cain’s offering wasn’t acceptable from the very beginning because his heart wasn’t right. Maybe he was a “one upper” that was in competition with his brother…but God always views the heart above the sacrifice…and God tells Cain…You can stop it…you can choose to do the right thing…it’s not too late…when did it cross the line…when his anger exploded into an action he couldn’t take back.

[I remember a young man I visited in Woodford County jail back in the mid 90’s. He’d shot and killed his stepmother with a 30.06 hunting rifle because they had an argument over a barbecue grill. When I went to see him they had him on suicide watch and severely medicated. It was useless for me to talk with him because he could barely keep his eyes open. They were afraid if he experienced the guilt for what he’d done he’d want to kill himself…I think they were right…they transferred him to Eddyville before I could see him again.]

But family said he didn’t arrive at that place of rage and anger overnight. He stored up every slight and injustice, perceived or real that his stepmother had done to him until it exploded from the muzzle of a hunting rifle.

Most people won’t get to that point…but Jesus makes it very clear unforgiveness begins in the heart.

“I tell you anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”

Cain was cursed and made to wander the earth. Eddyville awaited the young man from Versailles. A life of bitterness and disappointment are the judgment of the angry…at least here on earth.

Cursing others as “stupid fools” who can go to Hell is a dangerous heart place.

That’s why when it comes to forgiveness we should try to:

II. WIPE AWAY THE GRUDGE IMMEDIATELY AND PERSONALLY

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault…just between the two of you.”

Paul even tells us the attitude we should have as we go… “You who live by the spirit should seek restoration gently…watching yourself…” (Gal. 6:1)

The scriptures we’ve looked at deal with issues between fellow believers…and advisories (our enemies)…and in both circumstances God’s Word says it’s better for you to take the first step, with a gentle heart than to ignore it…or end up in court.

But this is real life…not a sermon or Sunday School…we’d rather ignore it and hope it goes away.

Have you ever noticed that sin that’s ignored, rather in a church…or in our lives, never gets better…it just gets more cancerous and deadly. More people get injured, hurt or killed…or killed spiritually?

Ignored sin destroys relationships, at the very least it destroys compassion at the very worst it threatens the very life of people and churches.

Don’t gather a team around you so you feel right in your anger…Pick up the towel and keep it just between the people involved…if it requires more people, get two or three spiritual leaders and bring them along…but only after you’ve tried personally.

I certainly don’t have all the answers…but anger and unforgiveness are like drinking Draino and hoping it poisons someone else.

Stormie Omartian said “Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right…it makes you free.”

Phillip Yancy wrote in “What’s so Amazing About Grace?”

“At last I understand: in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out. I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy.”

Let me end with this final thought as we pick up the towel of forgiveness.

III. PURSUE FORGIVENESS AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP

We are never more like Jesus than when we pursue forgiveness…it’s why He lived, died, and rose again.

Unity between brothers and sisters in His family was what He prayed for just before His cross…and on that cross He prayed for His enemies forgiveness.

I know we’re not Jesus…and I know without a doubt reconciliation isn’t always going to happen because we cannot choose what someone else does or how they respond.

But who do you think brings the remembrance that our brother or sister has something against us when we’re at the altar? Especially when you’re trying to worship God?

It’s the convicting work of the Holy Spirit right? Telling us. Our relationship with God virtually cannot be joyful, clean and free unless we are right with our brother or sister horizontally.

“You cannot love God who you have not seen unless you love your brother whom you have seen.” (1 John 4:20)

Forgiveness shows people God’s love like no other gift.

[I have an amazing friend who shows grace, love and forgiveness to almost everyone, especially those who don’t deserve it, but desperately need it.

And before you think she’s had some piece of cake life…Her first marriage was an escape but ended up with her beaten and abused, her daughter also…whose funeral I would have when she killed herself with a pistol in her bathroom a few years ago. She would remarry an amazing and loving man, but after a quarter century she would lose him to pancreatic cancer. I would have the privilege to baptize him during the last year of his life as he fell in love with Jesus.

But her first husband also got cancer…and this amazing woman took care of him, served him, nursed him through the final months of His life…I remember asking why would you do this…and she said, “It’s about Jesus, forgiveness, and the love of God.”

She had picked up the towel of Jesus and wiped all grudges away…and it allows her soul to fly…It always does.]

Let’s Pray.