jesus

The Great Invitation (Message)

Here is a message I recently preached about the Samaritan woman Jesus encounters at the well. I pray that it encourages you in your faith and helps you understand just how much God loves you!

(If you are reading this in your e-mail you may have to go to the actual page to watch the message)

I preach most weeks at the Garretson Campus of The Rescue Church. If you are ever in the area, I’d love for you to join us!

Our World is Falling Apart.

fallingapart

Young children experiencing excruciating abuse & humiliation as victims of sex trafficking.

Babies have bodies destroyed by the viciousness of cancer.

Men & women squeeze the cold steel of a handgun while pointed it at themselves; intent on escaping the cruelty of this world through suicide.

Many are in bondage to addiction – drugs, alcohol, pornography – and are powerless to overcome the chains which choke life out of their souls.

Each of us has experienced the utter darkness of this world. For every moment of joy, there are numerous incidents of earth-shattering pain. We cry out for redemption but it seems to be a distant reality; we scream to God for healing but our bodies continue to decay.

The world we live in is marked by suffering, corruption, and brokenness. It has been this way since the first humans chose to willfully disobey God. Their rebellion unleashed the power of death to reign over all of creation.

It is into this wicked and sin-sick world that God became a man.

The Incarnation. Emmanuel. God with us.

Jesus.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil…” – John 3:19

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent. It in this season that we return our focus to the One who really matters – Jesus Christ. He is the only One who gives hope to this world. I want to encourage you to spend intentional time over the next few weeks considering the incredible reality of the Gospel.

Jesus lived the life we could not live; died the death we deserve to die; and resurrected from the dead VICTORIOUS over the world, Satan, and our flesh.

In the midst of the hopelessness which rules in our culture, Jesus is the embodiment of Hope.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world…” – John 16:33

 

 

Religion Sucks.

blanche-monnier

Can you imagine being imprisoned by your family for 25 years?

This is what happened to the daughter of a wealthy Paris family in 1876. The daughter’s name was Blanche Monnier. Due to a romantic relationship the family disapproved of, they forced Monnier to become a prisoner in her bedroom while feeding her scraps of food and giving her no opportunity for sunlight or contact with other people. She deteriorated and only weighed 55 pounds pounds when police found her… on the verge of death. After being rescued, she was driven mad by her imprisonment and spent her life in a mental institution.

This is an incredible parallel for the toxic effects of religion.

Before you get mad, let’s define terms.

Religion is man trying to appease God through special ceremonies, good deeds, and behavior modification.

Flannery O’Connor wrote an excellent and illuminating short story called “Parker’s Back”. One of the fascinating characters in this story is Sarah Ruth. Sarah is a very strict, religious woman. She is described as being bland and a fun-killer. Sarah Ruth stands for religion.

Religion sucks.

1. Religion sucks life out of you.
Religion masquerades as life-giving but grants death to its adherents. Rules, ceremonies, and legalism appeal to people with a conscious tormented by the effects of sin. Rather than granting absolution, religion fuels the fire of shame by forcing condemnation alongside of confession. Grace and mercy are spoken of but rarely practiced, guilt and reproach are the cruel masters which imprison their subjects until they are malnourished and on the verge of death.

2. Religion sucks freedom from you.
As you become enclosed in the windowless room and smell the burning stench of your sin, you realize you have nowhere to run. In an effort to find relief, you become zealous about behavior modification. This is equivalent to scratching the cold brick of your prison cell with fingernails, trying to form a window to the outside world. You seek purification and wholeness but you receive hands which are marred and dripping with blood.

3. Religion sucks God from you.
The cruel irony is your self-imposed bondage comes from a sincere desire to appease God. As you begin to perfect your outward appearance, your body and soul are crippled by guilt. The more you try to change in your own power, the more you realize how worthless you are. This is magnified by the cold and heartless preaching of the man in a robe you hear from every week; a man who has bloodied his hands from scratching at the impenetrable walls of his prison cell longer than you have. God becomes distant, a cruel taskmaster bent on causing you pain. Rather than becoming insane from your imprisonment, you reject God altogether. The very thing that promised a relationship with God left you rejecting him. Religion sucks.

Jesus Saves.

Jesus came to crush the head of this deadly taskmaster.

Jesus came to offer freedom to the captives and shatter the chains of legalism.
Jesus seeks to transform the very core of who you are, offering life in abundance.
Jesus seeks brokenness in order to make it whole.
Jesus seeks sinners so He can provide true healing.
Jesus came so that all who are weary and weighed down with the heavy burden of religion may find rest.
Jesus came so that where sin abounds, grace increases even more.
Jesus came to dispel the myth that God is cruel.

Jesus is the exact image of God revealed to us.

Jesus lived the life you and I couldn’t live… a perfect life.
Jesus died the death you and I deserve to die… a brutal death prefaced by torture.
Jesus resurrected from the dead… showing that he paid the price for all of our sin (past, present, future).

Religion is man seeking God, Christianity is God seeking man. 

Seeing the Invisible God

The Western world – Christians included – are incredibly blind to the presence of God. We have our being in the midst of a noise-polluted and emotionally chaotic world. From the constant buzzing of smart phones to the continual anxiety about material things, we have become blind to the God who reveals Himself moment-by-moment.

I want to share with you an ancient practice that will allow you to see the invisible God. He is working and revealing himself in the midst of our lives but we are too busy and distracted to notice. This means of grace is known as the Examen of Consciousness.

The Examen of Consciousness could be accurately described as a daily review. It is a time that you set apart  and ask God to show you the variety of ways He was present to you throughout your day (or week). This is a form of prayer that has much more to do with listening rather than being heard. Through regular practice of the Examen of Consciousness, you will gradually become more aware of God’s presence in the ordinariness of your life.

Here’s my challenge for you: Spend seven days practicing the Examen of Consciousness. As the warm glow of the evening sun hides behind the horizon and you prepare for sleep, spend a few moments journeying with God through the events of your day. In what ways did you see “coincidences” that reminded you of God’s love and grace? In what ways did you respond to God’s prompting to speak to a stranger or show comfort to someone who was hurting? Allow the loving Spirit of God to make known the variety of ways He was working in your life throughout the day.

In the morning, remind yourself of the beautiful truth recorded in Psalm 139:16 – “All my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.” God wants to reveal himself to you. Pray that He would awake you from your spiritual slumber and open your eyes to the reality of His presence.

Immediate Obedience

immediateobedience

As I was meditating upon the Gospel of Matthew this morning, I was struck by the reaction of two disciples to Jesus when he called for them. Jesus, who at this time did not have any disciples, was taking a stroll beside the Sea of Galilee. This body of water is a popular and busy workplace for commercial fishermen. All around him, Jesus can hear the rough talk of men and the distinct sound of fishing nets crashing into the water.

Into this scene, Jesus sets his eyes upon two brothers – Simon and Andrew. Similar to any other day, Simon and Andrew are laboring to catch fish. This is not a vacation for them, this is their livelihood which they have trained many hours for.

Boldly, this itinerant preacher calls to them from the shore: “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” (Matt. 4:19)

In essence, Jesus is calling them to sacrifice their comfort and financial security to follow an unknown rabbi. What would you have done? I would have ignored this preacher in order to provide for myself and my family. I have a tendency to worship security rather than God. Instead of stepping into the unknown, I would have held onto my current condition of life and disregarded the Son of God.

How do Simon and Andrew react?

Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (Matt. 4:20)

They left their sense of comfort. They left their financial security. They left their friends and family. They did all of this to attain a greater prize – following Jesus. Instead of hesitating and worrying themselves out of obedience, they listened immediately.

God wants to use you and I today to accomplish his purposes but we often rationalize our disobedience.

My challenge for YOU today is to obey immediately as soon as you hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit prompting you for action.

 

 

Jesus and the Crowd

Jesus and the crowd

I hate large crowds.

Yup, I know that is pretty ironic since I am a pastor. I actually do not mind being up front speaking to a large crowd but I hate being in the middle of a bunch of people. What I REALLY hate is if there is a large crowd of people and they are all trying to get my attention. If there are more than a few people talking to me at once, I am bound to shut everyone out.

Thankfully, Jesus is not like me.

In Mark 6, Jesus’ spirit is crushed as he hears about John the Baptist being beheaded. In the same scene, his disciples return to him after a long, grueling day of ministry. In wisdom, Jesus instructs his disciples to go with him to a solitary place in order to find rest. Unfortunately, the crowd has keen eyesight and interrupts Jesus and his disciples while they are trying to rest and mourn in peace.

How would you respond?

I would be angry, impatient, frustrated, and overall disgusted by the crowd.

Let’s see how Jesus responds:

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” – Mark 6:34

Specifically Jesus…

  • SAW the crowd.
  • Had COMPASSION on the crowd.
  • And PROVIDED for the crowd.

I want to encourage you to view yourself in light of Jesus’ actions and allow the Holy Spirit to change you in the following three areas:

1. Slow down so you can truly see people.
Often, when I am interrupted by someone, I try to brush them off as quickly as possible. Instead of looking at the person as an image bearer of God, I see them as an annoying distraction. If the person is “needy” then I definitely try to steer clear of being in a conversation with them because I feel as if they will capitalize on my time.

Not so with Jesus.

In the midst of his grieving, Jesus SEES the crowd. He puts himself in their position and realizes they are like “sheep without a shepherd”. His intense love for people – ALL people – motivates him to see the crowd with love.

2. Seeing should become compassion.
It is one thing to slow down long enough to see people as beautiful image bearers – It’s another challenge to have compassion on them. Compassion is defined as, “concern for the sufferings of others.” All of us would claim we are compassionate people. Unfortunately, our actions betray our speech.

Having compassion for another person is a supernatural work. We are, by nature, selfish people. In order to TRULY have compassion for those who are suffering, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us see people through His eyes. Only when we gain God’s perspective can we have compassion on the crowd.

3. Compassion should become provision.
In this verse, we see that Jesus fed the crowds’ spiritually hungry souls through teaching them. A few verses later, we see that Jesus furnishes their appetites with physical food by multiplying bread and fish. One test on whether or not you are truly exercising compassion for others in your life is if you are willing to provide for them.

James, Jesus’ brother, explains this concept powerfully in James 2:15-16:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”

What good is it, if you claim to be a compassionate person, if you do nothing to comfort those who are suffering?


Often the “interruptions” in your life are opportunities for you to be used in powerful ways by God. If you neglect to open your eyes to the hurting people around you and instead allow your heart to be filled with selfishness, you will NOT experience the abundant life Jesus promises. Ultimately, your time does not belong to you. Everything, including each minute of your day, is an undeserved gift from the sovereign hand of God.

When you are interrupted today by a hurting person, follow in the steps of Jesus: SEE them as an image bearer of God, have COMPASSION on them in their suffering, and PROVIDE for them in the midst of their neediness.

Peace of Mind (Brand New Song!)

Hi Everyone!
I just finished my FIRST full song after two years. Below is the music and lyrics. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Verse 1 (Tyler Ramsbey)
It’s been awhile since I picked up a pen
To write a whole song people wondering where I’ve been

Well listen up… While I’m staring at them
I’ve been, in a place where the pain won’t end

I’ve struggled with, bitterness I didn’t wanna repent
Been on my knees before God saying this gotta end

I said I quit through the tears I didn’t know what to pray
But thank, you that you intercede in my place

It’s all grace, I’ve been so forgiven
Yet I cling to my sin and I choke on venom

At my best, I’m a broken Christian
Yet I know you listen and You hold me with Him

I don’t get it though, why did you bring me low?
Why did you bring all the stress and press on my bitter soul

Invisible, is how I felt when I was miserable
I finna go, to my God cuz I’m minimal, listen though

Chorus (Sean Divine)
Thanks for giving me peace of mind
You were always there for me lately
You’ve been given me all this time
Even when I thought I might go crazy
The stress of my mind let it all fade away
No time to waste just thankful for another day
(X2)

Verse 2 (Tyler Ramsbey)
If you know Christ then you know peace
If there’s no Christ then there’s no peace

So please… focus
Cuz the day is coming that you will be broken

As long as you are walking on the earth you are homeless
What I mean is by the King you’ve been purchased

But in the eyes of the world you are worthless
So don’t be surprised cuz the fires are certain

You may even die but your lifes for purpose
And not even death can make you step out of worship

Every breath that you get you don’t deserve it
So it’s urgent, you stay alert with

All diligence while His peace guards your mind
Release all your lies, He is alive

Tell em Jesus is God, your freedom He bought
So let’s cling to the Rock and sing that we got the peace that won’t stop!

Chorus (Sean Divine)
Thanks for giving me peace of mind
You were always there for me lately
You’ve been given me all this time
Even when I thought I might go crazy
The stress of my mind let it all fade away
No time to waste just thankful for another day
(X2)

Verse 3 (Tyler Ramsbey)
It surpasses all understanding
And we know that we know that we’ll never be abandoned

You are the Father, we are your family
We are the heirs of Christ we keep standing

It surpasses all understanding
And we know that we know that we’ll never be abandoned

You are the Father, we are your family
We are the heirs of Christ we keep standing


Enjoy the song? Be sure to check out my other Recent Music!