Following Jesus’ Final Week on Google Maps

passion-map3Palm Sunday begins what many have called Holy Week. During this week, the four gospels record for us the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, His crucifixion on Good Friday, and His eventual resurrection on Easter Sunday. Jesus does a great deal during His final week on earth and the gospels go to great length to record each of these events.

Several years ago, the people behind the ESV Bible connected the locations and the events of Holy Week using the nifty technology of Google Maps. I invite you to click here to explore more. Once you’re there, click on each flag to see a summary of the events of Jesus’ Final Week.

 

Programming Note: Join the North Richland Hills and Cross Church church family in our journey with Jesus beginning Palm Sunday as well. We invite you to make the journey with us by clicking here: www.nrhbc.org/Holy Week. It’s the most important week in history.

Note: You’re invited to one of five worship celebrations on Easter Sunday with us. North Richland Hills offers three services at 8, 9:15, and 10:45 a.m. as well as one worship service en español at 11 a.m. Cross Church, NRHBC’s satellite location, is brand new and offers one worship service at 11 a.m. Visit nrhbc.org and crosschurchdfw.org for more details.

A Pastor’s Letter to a Muslim

Earlier today I wrote a letter in response to a man who worships with our church and who also presents himself as a Muslim. The gentlemen is kind and caring; he is always smiling when I see him. He writes of our distinct faiths (Christianity and Islam) but he also mentions we worship the same God. I have dealt with the mistaken notion that Christians, Muslims, and Jews all worship the same God here, but wanted to share with my friend about the distinctive nature of God’s grace.

It’s not often that a pastor has the privilege of writing people of other faiths. In an age of so-called tolerance, few of us possess the civility to talk about the differences in what we believe. Too much of the time we talk past one another and shout over one another on TV talk shows. This is unfortunate and hurts the free expression of our faith. I thought I would share the contents of the letter with you.

Please note: the names presented in letter below have been changed.

Dear Mubid,

Thank you for your kind letter. I am so pleased that you are worshipping with us at North Richland Hills Baptist Church. We are, as you mentioned in your letter, devoted to making sure God’s Word prevails and our desire is to love others as we endeavor to connect all people with the grace of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I want you to feel at home in our church and I am so happy to hear of how you have felt welcomed by our church. My prayer is that we show you every kindness. My hope is that you find our church family welcoming, friendly, and warm for years to come.

You mentioned in your letter that, “The belief in Jesus is fundamental to embrace Islam.” We as a congregation are eager for everyone to come to know Jesus Christ personally and experience God’s free gift of salvation that is available only through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since even our best moral efforts cannot make us acceptable to the one true and perfect God, we strive to share the message that all people are far worse than they have imagined but they are also far more loved than they can comprehend. Allow me to explain this last sentence.

You mentioned the distinct faiths of Islam and Christianity. One thing that I am praying you to experience while you are with us is God’s grace. The Bible speaks of the “riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Grace is an unusual thing and it is a “big deal” for Christians. God’s grace causes believers in Christ to be humble people because they have not earned God’s favor but have received God’s mercy as a gift. God’s grace is a gift as God Himself gives it to people. Grace is where God treats people with goodness and mercy when they deserve only punishment. Instead of receiving what we deserve, God shows His kindness toward sinners. When we have received His kindness through Christ, how can we be anything other than humble toward others?

The Bible clearly states, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). And this a fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity. Because of Christ’s death on the cross for my sins, Christians can be absolutely certain they are forgiven. Allow me to say that again: because of Christ’s death on the cross for my sins, Christians can be absolutely certain they are forgiven. A Christian’s certainty of God’s acceptance is not because they are righteous or because they are good. Instead, our certainty rests solely in the death and resurrection of Jesus alone.

There are numerous laws in the Qur’an as there are in the Bible. The law in the Bible acts much like a mirror. The law shows us our sins like a mirror shows us what we truly are. Again, the law acts like a mirror so we see our sinfulness. Once we see our sin, we know we need a Savior.

Again, it is my prayer that you experience the grace of God for His grace is reserved only for those who trust in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection as the payment for their sin (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Because Jesus was both God and man, His sinless life and death stands in the place of sinners who place their faith in Him. Only God can grant forgiveness of sins and Jesus had the right to forgive us (John 1:12). Again, I want you to experience the grace of God. I want you to experience the sweet life where you know the God of heaven loves you and accepts you based on the death of His Son. I want you to experience the grace of God so you will be free to love others from the love you have experienced in Christ.

Thank you for taking time to read my letter. You are kind and thoughtful and we are so glad you are with us. I would like to sit down with you and enjoy a cup of coffee with you in the days to come. This would give us more time to talk. Please know I will be praying for you.

May Christ richly bless you,

Scott Maze

Pastor

North Richland Hills Baptist Church

Eight Thoughts on Preparing to Preach Through the Gospel of Luke

Tomorrow morning I begin preaching/teaching through the third book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke. I want to share eight thoughts with the North Richland Hills Baptist Church family as we begin this time together. My thoughts are in no certain order.

1. I have wanted to preach through one of the Gospels for a long time. One day when I am old and if God allows me to pastor/preach for a long time, I want to look back and see that I preached through one the Gospels. You could say this feat is on my “bucket list.”

As I begin my time with you here in the Mid Cities of DFW, I think it is the right time to start this journey.

I have a desire to read and reread these stories with you to see the impact they will make on this community and our community of faith. As we preach through these stories, I want to look out on Sunday mornings to see the faces of godly saints who have grown up on these stories and have relished them for years. I want to see this Gospel’s impact upon older saints who are close to the end of their lives. I can already imagine the pleasure many will take in hearing them again. Hearing the narrative of Jesus’ life has a calming effect upon His followers as it repairs us for it brings tremendous assurance to God’s people.

I want to witness the impression these stories make upon new believers and those who have yet to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Many think they know the words of Jesus as they assume His words are always nice and safe. Little do they realize the force of His words. Jesus wasn’t and isn’t nice. For many in our midst, Luke’s Gospel will be like a sword being removed from its sheath; it will have a devastating impact upon many. For many, Luke will unnerve them and jar them before his words brings life change.

More than anything, I think I will learn the most by leading this journey. I have a hunger for this.

2. I just finished reading the entire Gospel of Luke in one setting. It took me a little more than one hour and ten minutes. Each of the sixty-six books of the Bible were written to be read at one setting. The average person reads between 200 and 25o words per minutes and there is a little more than 19,000 words in Luke’s Gospel. I encourage you to read straight through the Gospel of Luke as we begin.

3. Luke is the longest book of the New Testament. Luke has 1,151 verses while Matthew has 1,071.

4. Much of what Luke includes in his Gospel isn’t found in the other three Gospels. Because Luke decided to do his research (Luke 1:1-4), we are now able to read about the original Christmas carols by Mary, the mother of Jesus, Simeon, and the angels of heaven. Because Luke wrote his Gospel, we have the parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31), and the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). In fact, you will find a total of seventeen parables between Luke 9:51 and 19:44 and fifteen of these parable are unique to Luke. If it weren’t for Luke’s Gospel we wouldn’t know about the two disciples who spoke to Jesus along the Emmaus Road after Christ’s resurrection (Luke 24:13-25). And stop to think how much of the Christmas story we would lack if it weren’t for Luke.

5. Luke is the only Gospel with a sequel (Acts).

6. I am filled with anticipation as I begin this journey with you but I am afraid that some will not. It is reported that when Dr. W. A. Criswell told First Baptist Church Dallas that he was planning to preach through the entire Bible, the congregation groaned in reaction. While I am not planning such an audacious goal, the thought of preaching through the longest book of the Bible may not be inviting to all.

Most Americans like short stories and few read long books in our days. The television commercial has produced in us a short attention span. Many Christians have failed to train their minds to really think. Consequently, there is tremendous pressure on pastors to tailor to this trend. Yet, the Bible has much to say. If I limit my teaching/preaching to only to that which fits into a “thirty minute sitcom” slot, how much would be sacrificed?

I don’t think pastors have to preach topically and selectively in order to reach people for Christ. I think God’s Word will attract non-believers and I am praying that many sinners will repent of their sin during this series. Pastors have been preaching through books of the Bible all through the centuries of history. I am not sure how I could improve on their efforts by reorganizing Scripture.

7. I’ll try not to refer to the Star Wars line where Darth Vadar says, “Luke, I’m you’re father.” But I’m not sure if I can resist…

8. A Brief Outline of My Preaching Plan. We will attack the Gospel of Luke like this. I plan to preach in the Gospel of Luke for 33 Sundays in 2013 or about 65% of the time. We will devote the other Sundays to other suitable words from Scripture. We’ll begin 2013 with a message from Luke 1:1-4 and segue to Luke 3. We’ll come back to the remainder of Luke 1 and 2 later (November and December) as I think it will be appropriate as we near Christmas.

I will break the preaching schedule up into seven sermon series on Luke’s Gospel beginning with The Man Who Won’t Go Away and ending with The Christmas Story. Along the way I plan to preach the following series:

Plastic Jesus: How Did Someone So Real Become So Fake;

Jesus Attacks Legalism;

Jesus Love Sinners;

The Upside Down Kingdom;

and Facing Life with Faith.

During 2013, we will take a couple of breaks from Luke as we consider the Old Testament book of Jonah for one month, we’ll also do series on NRHBC’s Core Values, and lastly, we’ll devote five weeks to Questions I’ve Wanted to Ask God.

I don’t have all of 2014 planned but I can already tell that we will take the better part of three plus years before completing Luke. If the Lord wills, we should be done with all of Luke 9 before Easter of 2014.

I ask you pray for your pastor as I lead us through this journey. I ask that you pray for yourself and for others. My hope is that God will grow our church during this time. Will you invite non-Christians to hear God’s Word in the coming Sundays? May the Lord bless the preaching and reading of His Word in 2013.