Pastor's Blog

September 2019

Know the Cost

Know the Cost: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but football season has started! I love football, but it’s been a little harder to watch the NFL ever since I saw the movie “Concussion” a few years ago. Have you seen it? “Concussion” tells the story of a doctor from Nigeria—Bennet Omalu—who studied the brain of a former NFL star who had committed suicide. Dr. Omalu realized that year after year of collision after collision in the NFL had damaged this man’s brain and caused his death. When he made this discovery, Dr. Omalu was sure that the NFL would be grateful to find out! But they weren’t. They did everything they could to disprove his findings. But Dr. Omalu didn’t give in. He wasn’t trying to destroy the game of football, but he insisted players have a right to know the cost of playing professional football. It’s good to know the cost.

That’s exactly what Jesus wants you to know. He wants you to know the cost. Not the cost of playing football. The cost of following him. Did you know there is a cost to following Jesus? He uses two stories to illustrate that. First, “suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” If you want to build a new house, it would be foolish not to make sure you have enough money to complete it! Can you imagine the ribbing you’d get from your friends if you built just half a house? You’ve got to know the cost!

Or Jesus says, “Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.” This is more serious than building a house. Before a country goes to war, it’s necessary to know whether they have the resources to win. Any leader knows to calculate the cost before going to war. It’s obvious. You’ve got to know the cost!

So here’s the cost of following Jesus. Ready? “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” Wow! Did you know Jesus said that? Following Jesus means refusing to let anything get between you and Jesus. Whom are we most tempted to love more than Jesus? Family. Parents, spouse, children. Could that be wrong? A woman once said to me, “Pastor, you don’t have to worry about my faith. I love God almost as much as I love my kids.” Is that wrong? Yes! That woman has an idol—her kids. God wants you to love your parents. There’s a commandment about that! God wants you to love your spouse and your kids. But he wants you to refuse to let anyone get between you and Jesus. Sometimes faith in Jesus separates families.

Jesus wants you to know the cost. “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” That’s well-known phrase today, “Carry your cross.” It must have shocked Jesus’ disciples. A cross in Jesus’ day was the worst thing imaginable. “That cross that people get nailed to until they die, be ready to carry that around as my disciple.” Sound nice? This is a hard saying from Jesus! If you follow Jesus, you can expect to carry a cross—sufferings like broken relationships because of your faith in Jesus. There is a cost to following Jesus.

That doesn’t sound right, does it? We’re not used to talking like Jesus talked. If you’re new here today and thinking about following Jesus, I’d like to tell you it’s going to be easy. I’d like to say, “Join our church. It’s going to be great!” I’d like to promise, “Believe in Jesus, and your life’s going to go well.” Do we make it sound easy to be Christians? Jesus doesn’t. Jesus was not a people pleaser. He tells the truth. He wants you to know the cost of following him. “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple.” Want to follow Jesus? Here’s the cost: Be prepared to give up everything, starting with some of the people you love most.

I’m afraid that’s not our expectation as Christians in America. We’ve been so blessed that we’re used to having everything—and Jesus too. We expect to be safe. We expect to be free to believe what we want without persecution—without a cross! We expect to have wealth. We expect to enjoy sports. We expect to go on vacations. We expect to have beautiful families. And we expect Jesus to fit in with everything else in life. Right? Jesus and… But Jesus says that’s not how it works. “Those who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple.” If it seems easy to be a Christian, Jesus challenges you today: “Are you really a Christian? Does Jesus really come first in your life? Does your family know what you believe?” It won’t be easy!

For some of you, hearing what Jesus says about hating—losing—family for his sake hits right at your hearts. You’ve talked to me about it. You have children who’ve fallen away from Jesus. Brothers and sisters and even spouses who don’t share your faith in Jesus. It hurts, doesn’t it? If you weren’t a Christian, it wouldn’t bother you at all. You’d say, “It’s okay. To each his own. It doesn’t matter what you believe.” But you know that’s not true. It’s not okay for someone not to believe in Jesus. It does matter what you believe. Faith in Jesus is the difference between heaven and hell. You look at the people you love, and you know exactly what Jesus is talking about. You know the cost of following Jesus. Your family. Your life! It hurts. Is Jesus worth it?

Last month, there was surprising news in the NFL. Andrew Luck, the star quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, suddenly decided to retire at 29 years old. People were shocked! The owner of the Colts estimates that Luck will miss out on $500 million by not finishing his career. $500 million! But Andrew Luck thought about the cost. He was constantly battling injuries, and he decided it wasn’t worth it, not even for $500 million. I think a lot of people are deciding that about Jesus. They hear what Jesus asks for—our lives. They hear what he wants us to be willing to give up—everything. And they decide it’s not worth the cost. 29-year olds are retiring from Jesus. 49-year-olds are retiring from Jesus. 69-year-olds retiring from Jesus. He’s not worth it!

So what about you? Now that you know the cost, is following Jesus worth it?

Before you decide if Jesus is worth it, there’s another side to the story. It’s true that there is a cost to following Jesus. God asks for everything. But you can’t consider our cost without first realizing what God has given up for you. What was God’s cost to have a relationship with us? Do you know? His Son Jesus. God gave up his family, so that we could be his family. Just think about that: God the Father knew the cost to save us—his only Son. Would you have done it? God did. God our Father doesn’t ask from us what he hasn’t already given up for us—everything!

Now think of Jesus’ cost. The Bible describes what Jesus gave up for us: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8). You got all that? Jesus is God, and yet he decided to become a human being. But he didn’t just become a human being. He became a humble servant. And then he died—for us. I want you to know the cost. To know the cost that Jesus paid for you: His life.

Jesus refused to let anything get between him and you—not even his family! Once when Jesus was preaching, his mother Mary and his brothers tried to get him to stop. Do you know what Jesus said? “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:30). That must have hurt Mary! But Jesus was letting even Mary, his mother, know that she did not have a right to get in the way of God. Or one time Peter—one of Jesus’ best friends—told Jesus he didn’t have to die. Do you know what Jesus said to Peter? “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23). Ouch! “Jesus, that’s not Satan. That’s your friend Peter!” But the moment Peter got in the way, he was Satan’s tool. Jesus didn’t let anything get between him and you.

Why? Why would God the Father sent his Son to die for you? There’s only one answer: He must love you—a lot! Why would Jesus stop at nothing to die on the cross for you? He must love you—a lot! God loves you more than anyone and anything else in the world. Do you know how much Jesus thinks you’re worth? Everything! There is nothing more wonderful than knowing the cost that Jesus was willing to pay for you and for me. To Jesus, you’re worth everything!

When you hear that, how can Jesus not be your dearest treasure? God doesn’t force us to follow him. He gives us the ability to push him away. But God wants you to know that whatever is coming between you and Jesus isn’t worth it. Whether it’s money or work or a relationship or even your mom or your kids, whatever comes between you and Jesus isn’t worth it. Not when you know the cost he paid.

The truth is, if you don’t have Jesus as your dearest treasure, you can’t be a good friend, because you will expect your friends to do for you what only Jesus can. If you don’t have Jesus as your dearest treasure, you can’t be a good spouse, because you will expect your spouse to do for you what only Jesus can do. If you don’t have Jesus as your dearest treasure, you can’t be a good parent, because you will place this pressure on your kids to do for you what only Jesus can do. The best thing to help your marriage is for you to grow closer to Jesus. The best thing for you as a parent is for you to grow closer to Jesus. In Jesus and only in Jesus do you learn what truly makes a relationship work: Forgiveness, undeserved love, forgiveness, sacrifice, and forgiveness. And if, in the end, your relationship with Jesus separates you from those you love, you always have Jesus. Because you know the cost he paid. You’re worth it! He’s worth it too.

This blog is based on Luke 14:25-33. (NIV)

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Citizens of Heaven

Citizens of Heaven: Presidential campaign season is officially in full swing. Have you noticed? It’s hard not to! Politics are on people’s minds. Just scroll through your Facebook news feed and note all the political articles and comments shared by your friends.

So what do we say? What attitude can a Christian have during campaign season? We need guidance and truth from sources other than CNN or Fox News or Facebook. We need the truth and comfort of God’s Word. Here are some beautiful truths from the Bible for us to remember during campaign season.

First, let’s remember that God is the authority over everything. That’s easy for us to forget. The Bible says, “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed….  The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them…. ‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain’” (Psalm 2:2,4,6). There is a real King. His name is Jesus. He already triumphed for his people. Don’t let the chaos fool you. Jesus isn’t worried! We know who is King.

Second, let’s trust God’s promise that the only thing that can change hearts is the Gospel. What America needs isn’t a certain president or political party. We need God’s Word. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zephaniah 4:5). If our country is going to return to Christ, changing laws isn’t the answer. It’s only going to happen through the preaching of the Gospel. Let’s share God’s Word—often!

Third, let’s remind ourselves where our real citizenship is. To the Philippians who were super proud of their Roman citizenship, Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). We are citizens of heaven! It’s a blessing to live in the United States, but when cancer strikes or death comes, being an American is no comfort. Let’s remember who we really are: Citizens of heaven because of Jesus. 

Finally, if our citizenship is in heaven, our goal on earth isn’t ensuring the success of any country. It’s winning souls for heaven. The heroes of faith in the Bible understood this. People like Moses and Abraham admitted “that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…. They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Let’s use the opportunities this campaign season provides to remind each other over and over again about our real King and our real home and our real citizenship. We’re citizens of heaven! That’s the only way to have true peace regardless of the outcome in November 2020.

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Don't Be Afraid

Don't Be Afraid. Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible is? Maybe you’d guess one of the 10 Commandments. “Do not steal.” “Do not lie.” “Do not commit adultery.” Or maybe you think of, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart,” or “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Those are commands from God, but none of those is the most frequent command in the Bible. Here’s a clue: What did the angels say to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born? “Do not be afraid!” (Luke 2:10).

That’s right—the most frequent command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid!” Isn’t that comforting to hear? Fear of danger robs our peace. Fear of punishment fills us with guilt. Fear of rejection makes us timid. There are so many fears… So what does God say—over and over again? “Do not be afraid!” Jesus’ forgiveness covers every single one of our sins. God’s angels surround us every minute of every day. Even if our loved ones turn their backs on us, our God never will. Death isn’t the end for us. Heaven is waiting! “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10). May Jesus erase your fears today!

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Hope for the Future

Hope for the Future: Stuck. Trapped. Hopeless. Is that how you feel? Life can suffocate us and deflate us and leave us feeling like there’s no hope. Here’s what makes it worse: When you know that it’s all your fault! How often don’t we feel stuck, trapped, and hopeless, with no one to blame but ourselves? That’s how God’s people felt 2,500 years ago. Their country had been destroyed. They had been taken as exiles to Babylon. Here was the worst part: They knew it was all their fault because of their sins against God. Stuck. Trapped. What hope did they have?

A lot! God wrote to those exiles through the prophet Jeremiah: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). As much as they had sinned, as bad as their current situation seemed, they weren’t forgotten. They were loved. They were forgiven. In fact, God still had plans for them. Big plans! What were God’s promises meant to give them? Hope. Hope for the future. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how trapped and stuck you feel, you aren’t forgotten either. You are loved. You are forgiven. God still has plans for you. Big plans! May that give you hope. Hope for the future!

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. ~ 2 TIMOTHY 3:16