The Scandal of God

I Corinthians 1:18-25

It is an amazing truth that the people of our culture are curiously drawn to public scandal.

He did what?
She said what?

We’re drawn to learn all the juicy details.

Did he really take steroids?
What kind of relationship were they involved in any way?
Did he plan to sell his government position?
Did the company executives cook the books to deceive investors?

People involved in scandals are in the headlines almost every day from all walks of life. Famous people, politicians from both sides of the aisle, athletes, movie stars, TV stars, Wall Street tycoons – the scandals go on and on.

Perhaps the scandals that draw the greatest scrutiny are religious scandals. The public revelation of hypocrisy by those who publicly profess faith, love, and loyalty to God yet experience great moral failure – pastors, church leaders, religious leaders. Scripture says, There, but for the grace of God, go I (restated 1 Cor.15:8-10). Another place in Scripture says,

“Let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).

Scandal is defined as
1. A public disclosure of immorality or failure.
2. A widely publicized incident of allegations of wrongdoing, disgrace, or moral outrage.
3. An action or circumstance which now threatens to destroy the reputation, power, or position of a person.

From a biblical standpoint, the word scandalum can mean to cause ruin, slip or stumble. Scandal is
4. An occasion of misfortune or the collapse of power coming through an individual’s sin.
5. An obstacle on the path over which someone stumbles
6. A sin that leads to an explosion of disaster.

Most of the time in the New Testament, a scandal is an issue, which blocks the human relationship to God. An obstacle in coming to faith, or the cause of a person going astray from the faith. It either hinders faith or detaches the person from intimacy with God. Today I want to talk with you about the scandal of God.

What if God was involved in a scandal? The apostle Paul in I Corinthians 1 says God is involved in scandal, the foolish scandal of a crucified God. What a paradox! The foolish scandal of the cross of the Lord, Jesus Christ. It is the ultimate paradox – the death of God, the death of the eternal King, the Messiah. The Old Testament says,

“Cursed is the one who hangs on the tree” (Deut. 21:23).

No wonder the message of the Gospel of Jesus is such an obstacle, such a scandal for Jewish understanding of a relationship with God. And yet, here it is boldly proclaimed – not only in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians but throughout the New Testament. The cross of Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God.

Let’s explore the idea of wisdom. When we think of wisdom, we might have an image of a wily old veteran or a wise old sage who knows all the tricks of the trade. He or she knows their way around the block. The classic Greeks defined wisdom as being fully and preeminently experienced to the point that the individual is adept in a specific skill. Wisdom is the mastery and superiority of learning, yet it is acknowledged as a gift of divine grace.

Wisdom is a superior insight into the reality of life in this world that leads to a mastery of practical living. In fact, Socrates, the great philosopher, said: “Autonomous wisdom is no wisdom at all.” In other words, if wisdom, knowledge, and intellect are not applied directly to pragmatic life, it is no wisdom at all.

Stoics believed that wisdom imparts individuals with the knowledge of the system of the cosmos. Therefore, wisdom empowers a person to live in harmony with the cosmos. It combines theory and practice. Therefore, wisdom is actualized knowledge, utilized knowledge.

Gnostics believe wisdom is knowledge enabling a person’s soul to journey away from entrapment in this physical realm back to the purity of spiritual essence. They believe that human wisdom is the path to eternal salvation.

For all people, wisdom leads to self-confidence, success, and mastery of the world. The human utilization of wisdom leads to personal gain. Wisdom is a means to power. The application of knowledge gives strength, intellectual prowess, and maybe even arrogance. Wisdom is a means to triumph, to conquer people and situations making them work for you. Wisdom is a means to success, prosperity, and wealth. Wisdom is a means to independence and self-reliance.

Perhaps the most telling verse in this passage of Paul in I Corinthians 1 says, “…the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” So if one imposes a vision of wisdom onto an erroneous understanding of Jesus, we might speak of a

Success Jesus, like a rabbit’s foot or a lucky charm.
Nice Jesus who teaches us kindness, patience, civility, politeness, and good manners.
Moral-police Jesus who teaches us a new ethic and shows us proper moral boundaries in order to hold the evil in us in check. It’s about like trying to hold a buffalo in a pasture with a weak fence.
Miracle Jesus, as if He is our personal genie at our command available to grant our personal whims so life is never hard.

Is that really the Jesus whom God has shown us in the New Testament story of His life, death, and resurrection? How can we know God? The New Testament’s central revelation of God is, in Paul’s words this:

“We preach Jesus Christ crucified,
the wisdom of God
and the power of God to all who believe.”

A crucified God is a foolish scandal. Someone who is eternally alive and infinitely powerful being put to death on a wooden cross. It is the story of the perfect Son of God going to the cross to carry the burden, the responsibility, and the punishment of all people’s failures for all history, for all eternity. He takes the sins of the world – my sins – on Himself.

The cross is the
• climactic revelation of God in history.
• climactic revelation of God in the created order in eternity.

The cross has a red river of life that flows to all who believe.

The cross reveals the
• Truth of the cosmos and our human lives.
• The darkness of the heart of human sin and failure – a failure so perverse and pervasive and profound that God had to die to overcome it.
• Our broken lives and shattered relationships so estranged that God alone can heal, forgive, and reconcile. God died on the cross to absorb into His heart our evil and the punishment we deserve. The heart of God bled to wash away our sins and make us pure.
• Unconditional love. God demonstrates His greatest glory and power by stooping low to embrace us in our broken failure and offer us unconditional love.

Why is the cross important? Because it fulfills the promise of God, which invites us to trust His promise of forgiveness. The cross is a
• Place of a new beginning as the Spirit of Jesus is poured into us to raise us to hope again.
• A foolish scandal.
• The wisdom of God.
• The power of God.

Think of it; who but God could
• Overcome His foes by letting them do what they want?
• Establish His eternal power and win victory by submitting to the enemy?
• Kill death for all time by dying Himself?
• Use His last breath to forgive His executioners and release a river of grace available to all people of all time?
• Reign as King and Lord of the cosmos with the cross as His throne?

We cannot come to know God through our obedience nor our righteousness. We cannot come to know God through our intellect, power, wisdom, nor our effort. God reveals Himself and meets us where we are, as we are – at the cross.

The death of God is the moment of God’s total self-giving in love. Jesus breathes His last with labored breath and seals His unconditional love for you forever. God invites you and me to believe in His action for us on the cross. This is the essence of the Gospel.

Jesus Christ was crucified in our place on the cross. It is a foolish scandal. The cross is the death of God but also the end of me. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in this physical body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me.” In the cross, God says you’re forgiven.

Years ago I visited with a Jewish couple in a former parish. I listened to the man of the family tell his spiritual journey, which was a traditional Orthodox Jewish profession of faith. He was a sincere man and worshiped regularly.

After listening, I asked if I could share what I believe to be true about God. I went on to share the Good News of Jesus, the brokenness of our human nature, our sinful hearts, and how the Son of God was born of a virgin, eventually dying on the cross. The perfect God, giving His life in sacrifice for rebels. It was a gift of unmerited favor, unconditional love, and forgiveness for all disobedient people who believe and repent in Jesus’ name. Then God raised Him from the dead and promised to pour His Spirit within the heart of every believer.

At the end of it, the man said, “That’s absurd! Why would a perfect holy God do that? I can never believe that understanding of God.”

It is a foolish scandal, an obstacle to faith, a stumbling block, for the message of the cross is the message of God’s forgiving love and acceptance. It is absurd and illogical. It is a mystery we cannot fully understand, a foolish scandal. But it is God’s promise for those of us who believe it is the power of God’s love and the wisdom of God.

In I John 4:10 it says, “In this is love not that we love God but that he loved us and gave his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” In love, Jesus takes the punishment we deserve, and by faith, we take the shadow of the cross as our safe place. It is the place where God comes to meet us. The cross is God’s power embracing us in our weakness. The cross is the place of grace in Jesus’ name.

Whoever you are and whatever you’ve done, Jesus comes to you where you are, as you are, to tell you again, My child, I forgive you. I died on the cross to love you. I reconcile you to my heart, and I ask you to trust me and rise up to walk with me. A love like that is always scandalous. Amen.

Pastor Lee Laaveg

For Children Only

Luke 18:15-17

As one reads the Gospel stories, it becomes apparent that Jesus is very interested in people. He welcomes and cares about all kinds of people, and He makes time for all types – religious and irreligious, rich and poor, healthy and sick, old and young (even the very young). Today’s story tells us about Jesus and little children. The story gives us a heartwarming word picture of an approachable Jesus who cares about kids.

Parents were bringing their children – even babies – to Jesus, according to our text. They wanted their children to be blessed by this celebrity rabbi who had gained notoriety for being a wonderful teacher and miracle worker. However, the disciples rebuked those parents.
     Jesus doesn’t have time for that.
          It’s a waste of His time and energy.
               He has a tight schedule!

Their attitude was children were not important!

Children in that society, of course, were valued and loved by their parents, but they were to be seen and not heard. Jesus used this scene for a teachable moment. He called those parents with the kids to Himself, perhaps motioning them to come near. Then He corrected His disciples with these words: “Let the children come to me. Do not hinder them, for to such belong the kingdom of God.”

In Mark’s version of this episode, we are given a touching description of Jesus taking children in His arms and laying His hands upon them to bless them. I’ve seen some wonderful pictures by artists of this scene. Maybe you have too. It’s a heartwarming picture of Jesus playing with the children.

This story teaches us a few lessons about Jesus’ relationship with kids and the kingdom.

First, we learn Jesus wants children to be brought to Him. “For to such belong the kingdom.” They are important and precious in His sight. As the song says,

♬Jesus loves little children,
all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
they are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”♪

What is this “kingdom of God” Jesus talks about? It’s not a geographical place at all. And it’s not limited to heaven. When Jesus talks about the kingdom, He is talking about life with Him under His care, with His rule in our lives. He is our King. A personal relationship with God begins now and continues into eternity. Jesus wants children to have that too. I’m not here just for adults who believe they have everything figured out. I want the kids to know me and trust me. This, my friends, is very good news.

And while it is good news, it is also a calling for us to take seriously. As a grandparent, one of my daily petitions is for my children to bring their children to Jesus so they will come to know Him and trust Him. I was thrilled when they brought their kids to the baptismal font to be adopted into the kingdom, but now the work of raising them in their baptismal covenant must be carried out. They must be brought to worship, Sunday school, and children’s programming. They must be read to from a beginners’ Bible and taught to pray. Someone needs to model what it means to follow Jesus. I am so thrilled my children are teaching them about Jesus!

Julie and I believe our calling as grandparents is to support and pray for them as well as teach and model what it means to follow Jesus. It is important and obedient to bring our grandchildren, whom we love so very much, to Jesus.

In my church, we emphasized and invested heavily in children and youth programming. We recognized how important those beginning years are to establish a firm foundation in those kids’ lives. Most of them made their decision about Jesus before they graduate from high school. Hundreds, even thousands of kids, have met Christ Jesus over the years at church. It takes a committed congregation, as well as committed parents, to raise a child to faithfully follow and trust Jesus.

Jesus warns us: “Do not hinder them.” Children can be hindered in so many ways.
Hypocrisy. If you are skipping church more than you are going, you are communicating the message that worship is not as important as other things, and you don’t walk the talk. Your kids observe you all the time. You are hindering them in their walk with Christ.
Lies (even little lies). Children soon learn that integrity isn’t really important for the disciple of Jesus. You are hindering them.
Prejudice. When you speak hatefully of other races, your hypocrisy is teaching them that the love of neighbors is conditional upon the color of their skin. You are hindering them in loving like Jesus.
Selfishness. You are hindering them in loving like Jesus if you look out for yourself first and not serve others in Christ’s name. If you keep your possessions held tightly to yourself and not act with generosity, you are hindering them in following the servant King, Jesus Christ who gave His all for us. Your hypocrisy will hinder them.
Spiritual Ignorance. The attitude to let them figure this thing out for themselves is deadly. When we don’t talk about Jesus and what He has done for them at the cross by dying for their sins to pay for their salvation and their forgiveness, we hinder them.
Marginalization. When we do not value and love them as Jesus does. When we don’t make time for them but treat them as extras in the picture of life, we hinder them.
Prayer Neglect. Christian parents and grandparents are called to evangelism in our homes. We need to pray for their souls. Our children, no matter how young, are sinners. They need a Savior, Jesus Christ. Don’t hinder them.

While Jesus calls the children to Him in our text, the primary point He makes is with adults. In His last statement, Jesus says, “Truly I say to you . . .” (When He says truly, it means He is about to share something important.)

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Receiving the kingdom of God like a child does not mean to go back and be a little kid again. Instead, we are to be childlike in our attitude.

In John chapter three, Jesus tells Nicodemus, a Jewish teacher, that he must be born again. Another way to say it is, born from above to enter the kingdom. Nicodemus asks, Hey wait a minute! Does that mean I have to enter my mother’s womb again? That is impossible! But that is not what He is saying at all. So what does Jesus mean when He says we have to receive His saving gift of God’s kingdom like a child?

1. We come empty-handed. Infants come empty-handed, bringing nothing into this world. So must we as we approach our Savior.
2. We declare our neediness and our dependence upon God’s grace. Kids come dependent upon their parents to provide for them, to care for them. This is how we approach Jesus’ kingdom.
3. We come trusting. Children are trusting. They learn along the way that they can turn to mom and dad and rest securely with them.

I was recently at a Bible camp teaching an Elderversity. We were studying Psalm 131, which gives us a picture of what it means to quietly trust God. The psalmist writes,

“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great, too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.”

This is a beautiful picture of what it means to trust. The weaned child – not the suckling child who mindlessly, instinctively comes to mother (Christ) for milk. This child has learned the mother’s love by resting securely in her arms. This is what God wants for you – to rest securely in Him.

4. Finally, we receive God’s kingdom not only empty-handed, dependent, and trusting, but with humility. Jesus had just finished telling a parable to the religious elite and His disciples about a Pharisee and a tax collector who approached God in the temple – one with pride and the other with humility (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus said it was the tax collector who walked away justified – the one who approached with humility, asking for mercy.

Jesus then summarized this parable by saying, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” He is talking about coming to Him in humbleness, like children. Children are symbols of littleness and neediness. Only empty hands can be filled. We receive God’s kingdom and His promises humbly, empty-handed, trusting, knowing we don’t deserve His mercy by any means. It is all by God’s grace. We don’t have a leg to stand on to be in His kingdom. It is grace.

The big idea in this text is the kingdom of God is for kids only. As Jesus loves children and wants them as members of His church, so should we. We should be baptizing them, praying for them, investing in them, and doing whatever we can for them to meet and trust the Savior of the world for their salvation and receive the abundant life Jesus wants to give them.

We should be rejoicing when they’re in worship, even when they are noisy and disruptive. After all, someone is bringing their kids to church. It’s important. They are living out their promise made at the baptismal font. Let’s not gripe about it, but rejoice in it. These kids are precious and important in God’s sight just as much as you are.

David Stone shared this poem about kids, and I want to share it with you. It’s entitled, “The Trouble With Old Clay.”

I took a piece of plastic clay
and idly fashioned it one day.
And as my fingers pressed it still,
it moved and yielded to my will.

I came again when the days were passed,
the bit of clay was hard at last.
The form I gave it still it bore,
but I could change that form no more.

I took a piece of living clay,
And gently formed it day by day.
And molded with my power and art,
a young child’s soft and yielding heart.

I came again when the days were gone,
it was a man I looked upon.
He still that early impress wore
but I could change that form no more.

We can only enter the kingdom of heaven like a child, my friend, with childlike trust and dependence upon Jesus. Are you a kid of the kingdom? You can be, for Jesus is calling you to come like a child, trusting in His promises that He has given His life for you. He died and paid for your sins at the cross, and you can receive a new eternal life. Put aside your pride that says you can make life work right without Him. Approach Him humbly like a child – empty-handed, ready to receive what He wants to give you – salvation.

Of course, in your relationship with Him, you will want to explore and learn all you can about Jesus. But never leave behind the simple basics.

Karl Barth was an important theologian of the 20th century. In 1962, he was asked in an interview how he would summarize the millions of theological words he had published. “With a song, I learned at my mother’s knee,” he replied. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me.”

Let’s end this message today by singing that beautiful children’s song of faith together.  ♬Jesus loves me, this I know . . .

Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer

Ten Healed, One Saved

Luke 17:11-19

Cary Grant, a famous movie actor from a long time ago, once told how he was walking along the street and met a guy whose eyes locked onto him with excitement. The man said, “Wait a minute! You’re, you’re . . . I know who you are; don’t tell me! Hmmm. Rock Hud . . . . No! You’re . . .”

Grant thought he’d help him so he finished the sentence. “Cary Grant.”

The man argued, “No, that’s not it. You’re, you’re . . .”

There was Cary Grant in all his glory identifying himself with his own name, but this fellow did not recognize him. He had someone else in mind.

The Bible has a verse about Jesus which states,

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize him” (John 1:10).

We see a bit of this being played out in our story today of Jesus and the ten lepers.

In the past, I’ve frequently preached on this narrative at Thanksgiving services. In fact, it is the chosen Gospel story for Thanksgiving in the church’s lectionary. On the surface, it seems appropriate because it looks like a Thanksgiving type story. But I propose something more important is going on here than remembering to say thank you.

It is true that Jesus seemed to appreciate the show of thanksgiving from the healed man. However, I’ve come to believe this story is more about recognizing Jesus for who He really is and then responding in faith and praise. Let’s take a look at it again.

Jesus and His disciples are walking along the border between Judea and Samaria. He is headed to Jerusalem where a cross looms ahead for Him. He will suffer and die on a cross to save us from our sins, to carry out God’s salvation plan for the world.

On the way there, Jesus was approached by ten men who had leprosy. They stood off in the distance and cried to Jesus for mercy, which is also interpreted as pity in some translations. People with leprosy were considered outcasts of society and were quarantined. No one wanted to catch this horrible skin disease, which caused pain and even loss of limbs. It also carried psychological losses, such as loss of family, personal worth, community, and dignity. According to Jewish law, they were required to keep their distance from healthy people. This is the reason these ten stood at a great distance from Jesus as they cried out for mercy.

Why were they calling to Jesus? They obviously had heard about Him and His healing powers. Hoping He might heal them, they cried, “Lord Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Surprisingly enough, Jesus answered their cries.

I love the fact that Jesus noticed these outcasts and had mercy on them. He has a heart and passion for hurting people. His latest healing miracles had caused some conflict and criticism. But Jesus being Jesus couldn’t help Himself, and He showed compassion to these hurting individuals. Besides, Jesus’ disciples might learn from this experience.

With a voice that rang out with authority, Jesus said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests!” According to Jewish law, a person who had experienced healing from this disease must show himself to the local priest before returning to society. Jesus was intimating that these men were going to be healed.

As they went, they were suddenly made clean. They were miraculously healed of their leprosy. Therefore, this is a miracle story. Miracles were clues to point to the kingdom of God being at hand in Jesus, who was the long-awaited Messiah of God. One of those lepers, who saw he was healed, turned back praising God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet giving Him thanks. Unlike the other nine, this man was awakened to something important in this encounter. So he turned back and fell upon his face praising and glorifying God in worship. Jesus’ identity had become all too clear to him.

Luke editorializes at this point in the story. There is almost a parenthesis there – Now, he was a Samaritan. Samaritans were hated by the Jews. They were written off as half-breed pagans. So this guy was in double trouble. He was not only an outcast because of his leprosy, but he was also a write-off because of his race.

Interestingly, he was with nine others who apparently were Jewish. Misery loves company, doesn’t it? No matter what the background, it seems to know no borders. But Jesus in His mercy, of all things, healed this man too.

Look at Jesus’ response to his turning back to Him. “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Notice, Jesus doesn’t say anything about thanking Him, but He does talk about praising God. They didn’t seem to recognize that they had encountered God in the flesh, the divine. But this foreigner of all people, this outsider, this write-off, caught it and began to worship, for he knew he was in the presence of God.

It was just like the disciple Peter when he first met Jesus. After pulling in a large catch, he fell on his face before Jesus and called Him “Lord! God.”

Jesus points out that out of the ten, only one got it. Look who he was – a foreigner, a Samaritan! He said to the Samaritan, “Rise and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” While ten were healed, only one was saved. Your faith has made you well.

The act of recognizing God in Jesus, then turning back reminds me of repentance, of surrendering oneself. In faith, he turned back with praise and thanks to God for Jesus. Falling on his face before Jesus is an action one would take when approaching the divine. It’s the posture of worship.

Jesus’ response – Get up. Arise and go on your way; your faith has made you well – says it all.

Get up is a resurrection term in the early Church.
Arise announces a new life has been given you. Like the prodigal son, ‘this man was dead and now is alive again.’
Your faith has made you well. In the Greek, this literally means, “has saved you.” In other places of Scripture as well it is translated, “has saved you.”

So this man is worshiping Jesus as his Savior. He is displaying a saving faith, not a temporal faith. God’s salvation is offered to everyone to receive by faith. Even Samaritans can be saved.

Later in Acts chapter one, the risen Jesus Christ will tell His disciples, “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” One could say the least likely person out of the ten received mercy and was saved that day! This poor guy had the two things working against him: He was an outcast of society and he was a Samaritan (pagan).

This is good news for people like you and me. Salvation in Christ is freely offered to everyone to receive in faith. Because of my sin and rebelliousness, I, too, could be considered the least likely to receive His mercy and be saved. I deserve absolutely nothing from God. I stand before Him empty-handed, unclean.

But my God is full of steadfast love and grace. Jesus entered our world to save us. Through faith in Him who suffered and died as an outcast for me at the cross, I receive mercy and grace. I am no longer an outcast before God. He will provide cleansing from my sins at the cross. His blood makes me clean, and I am restored into fellowship with God and with the family of God who trust in Jesus. My sin-sick soul has been healed by the blood of Jesus Christ. As the Word of God says,

“By his stripes, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

I’ve been thinking about this story for some time, and I had this thought. As the lepers heard Jesus say, Go present yourself to the priests, I remember that I, too, have a priest to go to, who will pronounce me clean – Jesus Christ. He is described as our great High Priest in the book of Hebrews. He is the mediator between God and a sinful person like me. He offered not the sacrifice of animals but His own blood to make me clean. By raising Jesus from the dead, God endorsed Him as the Lamb of God, the Great High Priest, who takes away the sins of the world – including my sins and yours.

What is Jesus looking for from me then, according to the story? Two things.

First, turn to Him in faith. If you’ve turned away, turn back. Believe in Him. Trust Him with your life.

John Stott tells us that an amazing thing happens when we come to Christ and put our trust in Him. A marvelous but mysterious exchange takes place. He takes away our sins and clothes us with His righteousness. In confidence, we stand before God trusting not in our own righteousness but in God’s manifold and great mercies, not in the tattered rags of our own mortality but in the spotless robe of the righteousness of Christ. God accepts us – not because we are righteous, but because the righteous Christ died for our sins and was raised from death.

Second, trust Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, and then humbly, joyfully, and gratefully praise God in worship for His Son, our Savior. Give thanks in faith and worship with the Apostle Paul saying, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”

May you be a walking doxology all the way to heaven singing,

♪Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below.
Praise him above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.♬

Pastor Steve Kramer

Position Posting

Christian Crusaders Executive Director

MISSION
To proclaim Jesus Christ as Redeemer of the world and personal Savior to all those who receive Him.

 

POSITION SUMMARY
The Board of Directors of Christian Crusaders, a Christian radio and internet ministry, is seeking a Spirit-led, goal-driven individual to assume strategic and operational leadership for the ministry’s program, operations and staff. Working directly with the Board the incumbent executes the ministry’s mission by:

  • Developing a compelling vision for the ministry
  • Planning and implementing growth and development objectives
  • Expanding the reach and impact of the ministry through the internet and social networks
  • Sustaining the radio broadcast and associated relationships
  • Developing, executing and monitoring the annual budget
  • Maintaining, developing and expanding relationships with ministry supporters
  • Maintaining the daily operations of the ministry including the direction of staff
  • Providing input on the management of the ministry’s investment portfolio

 

EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS
Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in experience, in communications, broadcasting, marketing, business, or related field

 

DESIRABLE QUALIFICATIONS
Experience in non-profit management, public relations, ministry or missions

 

COMPENSATION
Salary negotiable based on experience; insurance and paid leave benefits

 

APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS
Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, resume and names of three professional references along with contact details to:

Laurie Larsen, Search Committee Chair
2905 Abraham Drive
Cedar Falls Iowa 50613

 

TIMELINE
Review of candidate materials will begin the week of October 28, 2019. The successful candidate will assume the position in the first quarter of 2020.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

  • About the ministry christiancrusaders.org
  • About the position, contact Laurie Larsen, Search Committee Chair 319-240-8587

 

How to Do Life Together

Luke 17:1-10

A missionary working among children in the Middle East was driving her Jeep down a road when she ran out of gas. She had no gas can in the car, and all she could find was a potty chair. So she grabbed the pot from the chair and walked a mile down the road to the nearest gas station where she used it to carry the gasoline. As she was pouring the gas into the tank of her Jeep, a large Cadillac occupied by wealthy oil sheiks drove up to her. They were fascinated at seeing her pour the contents of the pot into the Jeep. One of them opened the window and said, “My friend and I, although we don’t share your religion, greatly admire your faith.” ☺

We talk about faith amongst ourselves and say things like, Keep the faith or Have a little faith. Today we see the disciples of Jesus asking, “Increase our faith.”

I can identify with that plea, can’t you? Increase my faith, Lord. We sometimes find ourselves wishing we had more faith or a bigger faith. For instance, when it comes to witnessing – being bold for Christ in public – the thought of sharing one’s faith with someone else can be seen by many people as a daunting task. So we pray, “Lord, increase my faith.” Then we can do it. But when it comes to taking on a big project . . .

Years ago, when my congregation was deciding to buy some land and relocate our church, it felt like a big leap of faith for us. I remember, as the pastor of that group, I felt not only exhilarated but also overwhelmed by the challenge and responsibility of it all. I prayed, “I believe you want this Lord, but it’s so big to consider. Increase my faith.”

Speaking of big projects, some of us have brought children into this world and taken on the responsibility of raising them to trust and serve Jesus Christ. Some days, in our concern for them and knowing the kind of world we’re sending them into, we might find ourselves praying, Lord, increase my faith. A host of big things might cause us to join those first disciples in this request.

A big project inspired this plea from the disciples. Jesus has just given them some instructions about how to live together as His people in the church. Overall He teaches that we are to be responsible for one another. We are to take care of each other’s spiritual welfare. The age-old question, Am I my brother’s keeper? is affirmed by Jesus. The truth is, no one follows Jesus alone. When we say yes to Christ, we are thrust into a family, not of our choosing, but the family of God. This is not always an easy task to live with because each follower of Jesus is a saint and a sinner. We can irritate and even hurt each other. Yet Jesus tells us today that we have a responsibility to each other. We are in this together. So what does that look like?

In this first section of the passage from Luke 17, we learn that followers of Jesus don’t cause other followers of Him to stumble in their faith or fall away from believing.

“Occasions for stumbling are bound to come,
but woe to anyone by whom they come!”

This is a serious warning from Jesus. He is saying, Listen, there are enough things out there to trip a person up in their faith walk. Don’t add to the list! We need to be careful to renew and not wreck the faith of others. Jesus adds,

“It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.”

We can do exactly that in a variety of ways, such as teaching false doctrine or encouraging bad behavior in others either with our words or with our poor example.

Pastors certainly need to take this statement to heart. We are given charge of guiding, growing, and guarding the sheep in our own congregation’s flock. Don’t let your flock be biblically starved and biblically illiterate. Nurture them in the one true faith. Faithfully feed them the gospel again and again and again. Confront them when they need to be confronted. Be on your guard. Heads up!

Why do you suppose He says this? I’m reminded of Peter’s words: “. . . Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking to devour” (I Peter 5:8). He desires to mess things up in your congregation.

Jesus adds to this lesson by saying sometimes a rebuke is necessary.

“If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, that is, correct them. And if there is repentance, you must forgive.”

Sometimes a person needs to hear, What you’re doing is hurting me. Or, your words and actions have offended me. Or, you’re headed toward disaster with your disobedience to God’s word. It is our responsibility to rattle one another’s cages at times, but we are to rattle them in love with the hope of restoring and helping the individual follower of Christ.

It has been said that a genuine rebuke is a noble communication. Its intention is to free a person for growth and effectiveness by speaking the truth in love. We may need people to speak the truth in love into our lives, and we may need to speak it to others as well.

Jesus continues,

“If there is repentance, you must forgive.”

As Jesus has forgiven us, so we are to forgive the offending party. In other words, if they show penitence, contrition, a turnaround from what they have been doing, don’t continue to hold their sin against them, but forgive.

Someone once said I can forgive, but I cannot forget. This is simply another way of saying I will not forgive. Forgiveness has to be like a canceled note torn in two and burned up so that it can never be shown against that person.

I once heard a story about a guy sitting with his friend at a bar who was lamenting about his marriage.

I just hate it when my wife and I get into a fight. She gets so historical.
You mean hysterical, don’t you? asked his friend.
No, historical. She drags out every bad thing I’ve ever done and reminds me of it.

That is not what Jesus wants from us.

He continues, Even if this person sins again you over and over again, you must forgive him. This is not a one-time occurrence. Each time he harms you and then repents of his sin, you must forgive him. That sounds difficult, doesn’t it? I like to set limits on how much I’ll take off of someone. I want to say to a person who has offended me, Enough! As far as I am concerned, we’re done. I wash my hands of you!

When you forgive someone, you are giving up your right to take advantage of the situation and hold it over their heads. You are also giving up your right to get even. As kingdom people, we are to humbly share the forgiveness God has given us in Jesus Christ.

The disciples are thinking to themselves, This sounds hard and it is going to require a lot more faith than we have. So they request,

“Increase our faith.”

Jesus responds with some reassuring words.

“If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Jesus is using figurative language to teach His followers about the power of faith in God, no matter how big or small their faith is. What matters is not the size of your faith, but the object of it, which is God who can do anything He wants! Amen! God is all-powerful.

When we are connected to serving Him and carrying out His will for us, God’s power is in us. I am reminded of some favorite Old Testament stories that remind us of this truth.

• Abraham – He learned to trust God and have faith. He learned God will take care of him and his wife, Sarah. Although they both laughed at the thought of having a child in their advanced years, God gave them a son named Isaac.
• Moses – God told Moses to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt. Moses shrugged his shoulders and said Me? I can’t even speak well. Yet look at what God did through Moses. He set His people free.
• Gideon – When God told him to drive the Midianites out of the land, Gideon must have laughed and said Me? Impossible! They are a huge power, and I am the least of the smallest tribes of Israel. However, God used Gideon to defeat the Midianites.

Likewise, our response to this tall order from Jesus may be, Take care of my brother or sister’s spiritual welfare? Rebuke them? Forgive them again and again? I don’t know if I can do that. But Jesus reassures us, Oh, yes, you can. You can do this with God’s power working in you and through you.

Jesus ends this teaching session with His disciples in a very interesting way. He talks about the attitude of being an obedient disciple. He moves from You can do these things to In what spirit will you carry out these orders I’ve given you? Using an everyday example of a servant and master relationship, Jesus asks,

“Suppose you are the master over a slave. Would you serve dinner to your servant after they’ve done a day of work out in the field? No. you’d say, ‘Serve my meal first. Then you can eat.’

“Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? Of course not. The servant wouldn’t expect that anyway. So you also, when you have done all that I have instructed you, say, ‘I am just a worthless servant doing what I ought to have done, carrying out my duty to my Master.’”

We do not boast about what we have managed to do for Jesus, like being a loving brother or sister, or a great rebuker, or a humble forgiver, because the power and the ability to carry out Christ’s orders come from God, not oneself. The motivation is not to receive extra credit from God – like a few more stars in my crown – because God’s grace freely given in Christ has taken good care of me.

We must keep in mind that Jesus, as He is teaching the disciples, is on the road to Jerusalem where He will suffer and die to pay for our sins and then be raised. Like an obedient servant, He will empty Himself for my sake in perfect obedience and love for the Father. The motivation for the servant of God is love and gratitude, as Paul writes in Romans 1:1-6: “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.” This is how Paul saw his ministry.

It is also how Paul saw the rest of his life after Christ Jesus took over. It was a big thank you, a response of gratitude to the One who bought him and ransomed him with His precious suffering and death – with His blood.

I can’t help but be reminded of Martin Luther’s explanation to the second article of the Apostle’s Creed when I read this portion of Luke’s passage.

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person. He has purchased and freed me from all my sins, from death and the power of the devil; not with silver or gold but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.

Now listen to this part.

He has done all this so that I may belong to Him, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He has risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.

This reminds me of another story, probably apocryphal according to one Lincoln historian.

Abraham Lincoln went to a slave block to buy a slave girl. As she looked at the man bidding on her, she glared at him figuring he was just another white man who going to buy her and abuse her. Lincoln won the bid, and as he was walking away with his property he said, “Young lady, you are free, free to go.” She asked what that meant.
“It means you are free.”
“Does that mean I can say whatever I want to say?”
“Yes, my dear. You can say whatever you want to say.”
“Does that mean that I can be whatever I want to be?”
“Yes, you can be whatever you want to be,” Lincoln replied.
“Does this I mean I can go wherever I want to go?”
“Yes. You can go wherever you want to go.”
Then the girl, with tears streaming down her face, said, “Then I will go with you.”

Fellow redeemed disciples of Jesus Christ, for the sake of His kingdom, for the sake of the Church of Jesus Christ, take these words of Jesus to heart and do them. Look out for one another’s spiritual welfare. Have the courage to lovingly rebuke and correct when needed. Then forgive as you have been forgiven by Jesus. This is what holds the Church of Jesus Christ together. It makes us a shining light to the world and a living display of what God intended for His world in the first place – people loving each other and taking care of each other.

Remember, you can do this no matter how small you feel your faith might be. The object of your faith is what makes it possible. And the object of your faith is your heavenly Father who loves you, who gave His One and only Son to die for you upon a cross and raised Him from the dead. He is counting on you today to obey now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer