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Winnowing Fork

Ministry #5  November 17 Winnowing Fork

Let me set the stage.  Hundreds of people are gathered at the shore of the Jordan River.  Imagine: you are meandering through the crowd of people, and John the Baptist calls you to repent of your sins and turn to the Messiah.  You find yourself believing what he is telling you, and John baptizes you in the river.  Excitement comes over you.  The feeling is great!  You make your way back to the shore and right after you get done drying off, the same guy utters these words:

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  Matthew 3:11-12

Then you think to yourself: Winnowing fork? Threshing floor? Chaff? Unquenchable fire?!?  What in the world is this guy saying?  Did I not just get baptized?  But now he is telling me someone is going to baptize me with the Holy Spirit and fire??

I asked myself those questions while reading this portion of Scripture.  Let us start with what we do know.  The Bible is very clear on how to be saved.  John 3:16 covers that.  After you have truly believed that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again to pay for your sins, the Bible is clear that your next step is to be baptized.  It is a step of obedience.  This step tells other people you are now associated with the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  The word ‘baptism’ means ‘immersion by water.’  Jesus Himself was baptized by going under water, and we are all supposed to imitate Jesus. So, what does John mean when he said, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire?”

John uses this powerful analogy to prove a point.  He is simply saying that he only has the ability to baptize you with water.  But the Messiah (who is Jesus) is coming after him and has the actual power to incorporate your soul with the Holy Spirit.  When you believe in Jesus, the belief baptizes you in that fire.  You take on the Holy Spirit who helps guide you through life so you can live it more abundantly.  Then, and only then, when Jesus separates (with his winnowing fork), those who have believed (wheat) from those who have not (chaff), will you be able to withstand the fire that separates the wheat from the chaff.  Wheat stays in Heaven and chaff is burnt up with unquenchable fire.

Water baptism is symbolic of being baptized with the Spirit.  It is an outward expression of an inward connection to Jesus.  So how about it?  When life is over, and you stand before God Almighty, is He going to take his winnowing fork and sift you like chaff?  Or is he going to gather you like wheat?

Tommy Youngquist

Children’s Pastor

Sharables Lesson 2 – Devotion 1

Sharables Lesson 2 – Hog Haven
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

I am not sure the story is true, but it goes something like this:  There were these three gravitationally challenged (little) Sus Scrofa Domesticus (pigs) who decided to each build a dwelling.  I do not think the fact that they were little plays a part in the story, nor do I believe it is a story about birth order.  However, the first “pig” (not intended to be a derogatory term) built his house out of straw and went off to play.  Personally, I have not seen pigs play, but that is beside the point.  The second “pig” builds his structure out of sticks.  I become a little concerned here because although I have beautiful vinyl siding, it is covering a stick built Cape Cod.  He too takes to gaming.  The third diligent over-achiever painstakingly presses on with bricks.  Brick homes are beautiful but can be costly.  I can imagine that straw or hay and sticks could be found for free.  Where does the third pig get the money for the bricks?  Does he make his own?  Side note: please do not confuse this pig with the “one that went to the market.”    

The time comes when the wolf shows up for a house call (it is interesting how often even fairy tales associate a wolf as a dangerous enemy to be avoided).  He and his appetite are not welcomed with pigs.  The first pig tries to send him away, but he refuses (somehow the straw house had a door that locks).  After verbal threats, he huffs and puffs (I think you know this part) and blows the house down.  Piggy number one runs to the stick house and is welcomed in with the door shut and locked behind.  Since we have accepted the fact that pigs and wolves can talk, we can press on with the story.  The same scenario happens with them running to the brick shelter.  House number three wins so bacon, sausage, and ham live happily ever after or something like that.

The story is cute, but what about our lives?  We set Jesus as the foundation, but what are we building on it each day?

When Jesus was challenged by the “biggest baddest wolf of all time,” He responded with Scripture.  Jesus limited Himself to the point He needed to study the Word.  He then was able to use it to refute the enemy.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Jesus Christ is the foundation.  Spending time with Him in reading the Word, meditation, prayer, and gathering with other believers helps strengthen our stand against the storms of life.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).

Sharables Lesson 1 – Devotional 6

Sharables Lesson 1 – The God Who Sees Me
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

Do you ever feel all alone?  Do you feel forgotten?  Does it seem like no one cares?  Hagar felt that way.  In Genesis 16:11-14 God reaches out to her at her lowest moment, “And the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son.  You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction.  He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.’  So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’ Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.”  Her response is interesting.  She gives God a name.  She calls Him “El Roi” which is translated “the God who sees me.”  She goes on to name the well “Beer-lahai-roi” which is translated as “the well of Him that lives and sees me.”

God sees you.  He takes notice.  He watches.  He cares.

As I have mentioned before, I worked security while attending Seminary.  I used to work for two different companies, and it allowed me to work full-time (midnights) and gave me time to study (they loved it as I was one of the few who stayed awake).  One night the alarm went off at Baylor College of Dentistry.  I was the only one on duty.  I had no weapon (I did grab a flashlight).  The phone lines were down.  It was before everyone carried a phone.  I remember going down a stairwell to see what was wrong.  The door was open (It was locked earlier).  I secured the door and went on.  I needed to make my rounds.  My heart was pumping overtime.  I remember walking through a lobby that had several mirrors.  They caught me off guard as I saw several people (who were all me).  I admit I am quite the sight at 4:00 am.  Even as I walked by the vending machines, everything was quiet until the pop machines compressor turned on.  I was ready to swing the flashlight, and I think I would have won that battle.  I was a mess.  I sat down at my security desk and opened my Bible to Psalm 139.  Enjoy verse 7-12:

  “Where shall I go from your Spirit?

    Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning

    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

    and your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,

    and the light about me be night,’

even the darkness is not dark to you;

    the night is bright as the day,

    for darkness is as light with you.”

It is so comforting to know that God sees us and cares.  He loves us, and He is in control.  We all had those fears of basements and the stairs that are open for someone or thing to reach through.  Do you remember waking up in the night wanting to go to the bathroom, but you were not sure what was under the bed?  How about spending the night at grandma’s house and hearing noises?  We all had and probably even have fears.  As we get older, it may be watching a spouse go to serve our country or a child leave for the mission field.  It could be driving through a neighborhood or giving our child the car keys.

The next time fear barks, reply with “El Roi!” “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).  The God who sees is watching you.  Take control with prayer and Psalm 139.

Sharables Lesson 1 – Devotional 5

Sharables Lesson 1 – Light of the World
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

In John 8 we read the story of the woman caught in adultery.  Surprisingly, the scribes and Pharisees worked together and plotted to take down Jesus. Several questions come rushing through my mind.  They brought a woman to Him, but where is the man?  What did Jesus write in the sand?  What did each leader think as they walked away beginning with the oldest ones?  What did the by-passers think and how did their emotions and thoughts change?  Did Jesus see a broken woman and offer grace by letting her go?

As the questions arise, the main point comes when in the next verse, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).  Jesus is the Light of the World.  He could see into the darkness of the scribes and Pharisees’ plan.  Jesus glanced into their dark paths and brought to light harsh reality.  He could see into the life of this sinful yet humiliated woman.  He could tell if she was sorry she got caught or truly remorseful.  He is the Light of the World.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  As the Light of the World, Jesus never sinned.  He calls us to join Him and walk in the light.  He challenges and even commands us; “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

John 8 was not the first time we read of Jesus being associated with light.  In John 1:4-5 we read, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Light beats darkness every time.  Choose to walk in the Light.

Light does not create dust, dirt, or sin.  It reveals it.  However, as Light of the World, Jesus even worked at the process of purification.  Hebrews 1:3 says,

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  By walking in the Light, we can radiate the glory of God.

I want to close with one of my favorite quotes.  It is from the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 

Jesus is God.  He is the Light of the World. 

Sharables Lesson 1 – Devotional 4

Sharables Lesson 1 – Not Good Enough Samaritan
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

Yesterday, we looked at “Who is my neighbor?”   I wonder if that is the question Jesus was answering.  Let’s look at the context again in Luke 10:25-29.

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’  He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’  And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’  And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’  But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”

The part that bothers me is the attitude of the lawyer, “Desiring to justify himself.”  Maybe Jesus was addressing the first question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

If loving God and loving others summarizes the Law, and the Law cannot save, then our love (works) is not ever enough.

The lawyer was still trying to justify himself to earn eternal life.  I like how Martin Luther King Jr. shows this distinction, “On the parable of the Good Samaritan: I imagine that the first question the priest and Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

The focus should not be on our works or us.  Our focus should be on God and others.  Author William M. Holden was bold in saying, “Hell is paved with good Samaritans.”  Our works mean nothing.  We cannot save ourselves.  It is only the work of Jesus Christ that allows salvation. 

The lawyer wanted to justify himself.  He could not.  We cannot.

Love God for who He is and what He has done.

Love others for their sake.

Love others because it pleases God. 

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

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