The Story

Many of us in life long for something better to reassure us in tough times.  Think of the movies we like best, the books we read over and over again, or perhaps a favorite comic book.  In most cases they lead us on an adventure, they remind us of the greatest ideals of love, or that good will triumph over evil for that moment and we have hope that this triumph will last forever.

Try to think of a time you decided to reread the newspaper.  It is probably not often, if ever, because the majority of the news is bad and we are reading for information and not so much to make a connection.  The emotions most have after reading the newspaper are anger, frustration, and sadness.  These will not lift our spirits and change our lives for the better.

There is within each of us a desire for something better.  In our heart of hearts we long deeply for life to be different for a change. We want to see good win over evil, even if it is only temporary.  We want to believe that death is not the end, and the story has a happy ending with a hero.  This story is one about pure and sacrificial love.  We need this story to remind us that no matter what life holds for us there is hope beyond all things, that there is more to this life that what we can see.  We come to this story to remind us of a home and a land far away.  It is a place beyond this life.

Let me invite you to spend less time with your head in a newspaper, and more time believing the story.  Oh, you did know it was true?  Gather in my friends this truly is a wonderful story that will take you on a journey.  It is a story filled with difficulty and disappointments but it is also a story of love, hope, peace, of good and evil locked in an epic battle, but this time good will win.  Good will win once and for all.  This is a story worth hearing and worth reading every day to remind us of what is really true.  There really is good news.  This is the greatest story ever told and found in the Bible.

The Sixth Sign-The Healing of the Man Born Blind-Jul. 25, 2012

The Sixth Sign-The Healing of the Man Born Blind-July 25, 2012

Scripture:  John 9:1-41

The sixth sign story begins much like the other healing accounts.  Jesus was either on his way somewhere or passing by.  It may be that too often we forget to look for the miraculous in our midst.  We want the skies to part and everything to be plain and obvious.  Jesus by his very nature is both God and man, and so we often forget to seek his presence in daily living.  We seem more concerned with special things where we feel like we can invite the Spirit of God.  This sign points out we may very well miss the big signs because we are not preparing our eyes to see the everyday examples in our lives.  This spiritual blindness is far worse than the physical blindness of this man.

I do not know if by just seeing the man one could tell he was blind from birth, but Jesus knew.  The disciples are still learning just as we, his disciples today, are still learning.  They ask a question, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?”  In our time do we ever try to ask or find out why people are in the condition that they are in?  We may or may not label it sin, but often we try to find out the back story and what is going on rather than looking at it through God’s eyes.  Jesus’ response was neither sinned, but the work of God would be displayed in him.  In spiritual blindness as we shall soon see, they are far more concerned with the question of sin, and the perceived wrong doing by the healer, rather than the glory of God manifest in this sign.  They also miss the joy in celebrating with this man his restoration.

Jesus spit on the ground and made mud and put it over the man’s eyes and instructed him to wash in the pool of Siloam.  And when he did as Jesus told him to, the man came back with his sight restored.  The neighbors asked each other wasn’t that guy the beggar?  Some said yes, and others said no it just looks like him, but he continued to say that he was the one.  So then they ask, “How is it that you can see?”  A good question, but do they really want the answer or just some way to try to refute the evidence of the miracle?  The man recounts the story and then they ask him where Jesus is and he told them that he didn’t know.

Division will often arise in situations where we are confronted with seeing and understanding Christ as He is and not just our toned down versions of Him.  Those versions that make Jesus to be more like us, so it is easier for us to claim Him and not have to change our lives or perceptions too much.  The people were confused so they brought the man to the Pharisees.  It was the Sabbath.  They ask him a few questions, what actually happened, the man’s version gets shorter.  He put mud on my eyes, I washed in out, and now I see.  The crunch or crises of belief comes when some of the Pharisees say, if He is from God why didn’t He kept the Sabbath, and others said how could a sinner perform such signs?  And there was division among them.  Division comes when we want to rationalize away the glory of God in our presence.  Jesus is perhaps the most polarizing person who has ever lived.  He is either God’s Son and worthy of worship or we trust ourselves, our ideas, and in so doing we are practically calling Him a liar.

So they ask the man, and He said, “He is a prophet.”  Then the Pharisees start reaching by saying maybe he was not born blind.  So they Pharisees seek out the man’s parents.  They ask, “Is this your son who was born blind?  How does he now see?”  Their response blows my mind.  They say yes he is our son and born blind, but how he sees we don’t know, he is a man and can speak for himself.  They did this because they were afraid of the Pharisees (the religious leaders), because anyone confessing Jesus to be Christ will be put out of the synagogue (church).  So this begs a very basic question can we find Jesus outside of the church?  On a sad note here is a man who has never physically seen his parents and this miracle should be a cause for celebration and joy for him and his family.  Yet they are involved in a church fight concerning his healing.  Another question, did Jesus do work on the Sabbath by making mud to put on his eyes, by healing, or did the man work by going and washing it off?

The Pharisees try to bully the man to label Jesus a sinner.  Remember at the beginning of this story it was the disciples who had questions about the sin of this man or his parents and Jesus points them to God’s glory.  Now in verse 24 the glory of God is evidence before the Pharisees but they would not accept the way God worked.  The man said, He didn’t know if Jesus was a sinner or not, but the fact is I was blind and now I see.

They ask the man again how Jesus did it.  Although the text does explicitly say I imagine he is getting a little frustrated at this point.  He then says to them, I told you once, did you not listen; why do you want to hear it again?  So it seems that the Pharisees are spiritually blind and also spiritual deaf. “You don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?”  This would have been considered a huge insult.  They saw Jesus as a heretic and blasphemous, and now to suggest that they would be His disciples was more than they could take.  The Pharisees took his statement as admitting he was a disciple, and then they say they are disciples of Moses because we know that God has spoken to Moses; but as far as Jesus goes we do not know where He is from.

The man then condemns the Pharisees by their own arrogance.  They claim to have the answers in matters concerning faith and God.  He says to them, this is amazing you are supposed to be so smart and connected to God and don’t know where He is from and yet He opened my eyes.  We know that God does not hear sinners, but only those that fear Him and do His will.  Since the beginning of time there has never been an instance of a person being born blind receiving sight.  If He was not from God, He could do nothing.  Their answer is a cop-out.  You were born in sin, and you think you can teach us?  So they threw him out of the synagogue.  This issue of sin is the same one the disciples had but the Pharisees could not see the sign was from God.  The disciples learned from this example the Pharisees fell back on an accepted answer concerning sin, and so now but this man and Jesus were considered sinners.  Not bad company to have, thankfully God is the one who gets to decide.

Jesus heard what happened and found the man, and asked him did he believe in the Son of Man?  The man answered, who is He?  Jesus says, you have seen Him and are talking to Him.  He is seeing, hearing, and believing something the Pharisees could not do.  The man believed and worshiped Him.  Jesus then says He came to give sight to those that couldn’t see and that those that can see would be blind (spiritually).  Some of the Pharisees that were there asked Him, “What?  Are we blind too?”  He tells them if they were blind they would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.  If they were blind (spiritually or ignorant) then they would not be in sin but since they claim to have sight (or insight) and missed the miracle of the glory of God, they have brought sin upon themselves.

Vacation Bible School-Shine God’s Light-Jul. 22, 2012

Vacation Bible School-Shine God’s Light-July 22, 2012

The V.B.S Theme was Shine God’s Light!  In the morning service we basically had another time of V.B.S. worship.  I only shared a few verses of scripture.  No long sermon.  Here is a list and I will emphasize two.

Isaiah 2:5-let us walk in the light of the Lord

Matthew 5:16-let your light shine before men

John 8:12-he said, “I am the light of the world.”

I John 1:7-But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 Peter 2:9-But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who call you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

If we walk in the light, then we are walking with him and fellowship with one another.  This fellowship is because of our mutual walking with him and the sacrifice of Jesus.  Peter reminds us that we are a chosen people, belonging to God to praise God for calling us out of the darkness into his wonderful, marvelous light.  As you walk together in the world, shine God’s light!

 

A Story of Two Missionaries-Aug. 15, 2012

A Story of Two Missionaries-August 15, 2012

Scripture:  Jonah 1 & 3, Isaiah 6

The Story of Two Missionaries is meant more to describe the importance of the call and the willingness to be used by God.  In choosing to be obedient to the call of God upon our lives will not necessarily bring success by the world’s standards or even our own.  If success is defined as faithfulness, then we all have the opportunity to live out the call God has placed on each of us.  If you are one of His, then He has something for you to do.  There is no age too early to start and no retirement this side of glory.  Let’s look at two very different examples in the Bible.

Jonah was a reluctant prophet (missionary).  He did not want to go to Nineveh.  Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh because he was concerned that they people may repent and not get what he thought was coming to them.  So he ran.  He ran away from Nineveh, and away from God (so he thought).  In doing so the Bible describes him as going down to Joppa, down into a boat, and before it is over down in the belly of a great fish to the bottom of the sea.  There was nowhere he could run from the calling God had given him, and it appears that it is about God all along.

Chapter 3 the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, and this time he goes.  Jonah was obedient, but not enthusiastically obedient.  He basically does the bare minimum, but lives are being changed because they have heard from God.  It was this obedience that made all the difference in the lives of the people of Nineveh.  Jonah, however, always seemed to remain sour.  He continued to be upset with God for His mercy which was really the same mercy God also gave Him.

Then there is Isaiah.  Isaiah found himself at a time of national tragedy and uncertainty after King Uzziah died, in the presence of God.  The King of Kings, the one who will be our constant even in uncertain times.  He sees and understands he is in the presence of God and recognizes rightly his personal condition and that of his people before God and fears for his life.  The Lord provided cleansing and then asks who will go, and Isaiah responds “Here am I.  Send me!”  Here is two very different pictures one of Jonah and one of Isaiah and we might be tempted to think well Isaiah had it easy, not so.

God tells Isaiah up front you will likely preach to them the rest of your life with no result.  Isaiah remained faithful for the next 40 plus years preaching with little to no result.  He was faithful, but by some definition unsuccessful.  Looking back at these two with a few thousand years in between, Jonah seems to be more remembered for his disobedience and being swallowed and thrown up by a big fish.  Was he successful?  Scripture tells us that the city returned to God and was spared, but most sermons these days do not emphasize the “success” but the sourness of his attitude and the greatness of God’s mercy.

Isaiah on the other hand knew from the beginning that things would not be pretty and this would be his life’s work yet he choose obedience.  It is from Isaiah that we have much of the blueprint for the Messiah.  Isaiah tells of how He would be born, and His lineage.  His messages containing the change of the hearts of people and the peace that will come.  Isaiah speaks of the suffering servant that Jesus identifies as Himself.  In our day and time we look at some many links to the faithful word of Isaiah in his time and ours, as we hope for and long for the promised peace to finally rest upon creation.  What a legacy.

Which one would you be the reluctant, sour, but briefly successful missionary, or the one whose faithfulness has nourished for thousands of years even if the impact may seem small now.  God’s word will not return void, but the success is not measured in our time but to an eternal God who calls, and sends.  Will we be faithful to trust beyond the span of our life that obedience to Him was worth it?

Words to our commissioned missionaries.  Be obedient to the call, trust His strength, and stick together.

Be obedient to the call:

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.”  Matthew 24:14

Trust His strength:

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.  Zechariah 4:6

Stick together:

And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.  Ecclesiastes 4:12

The Fifth Sign-Walking on Water-Jul. 18, 2012

The Fifth Sign-Walking on Water-July 18, 2012

Scripture:  John 6:16-21

In the middle of the story containing the fourth sign is the fifth sign.  Jesus has just discovered that the people intend to try to make Him their king and so He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.  In most accounts after a major miracle is performed Jesus seems to withdraw or pull back from the crowd or attention.  He continually grounds Himself in the Father.

It is now mentioned that evening was at hand and His disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and they started across the sea to Capernaum.  And it was now dark and Jesus had not come to them.  Then there came a strong storm on the sea.  Storms are bad enough but being out to sea in one was worse.  When they had rowed about three or four miles they saw Jesus walking on the water and coming toward the boat and they were frightened. But He told them “It is I; do not be afraid.”

They then let Jesus on the boat and immediately the boat was at the land they were going to.  By the time Jesus reached the disciples in the boat they were almost to the other side, indicating that it was not just some trickery of being close to shore or a sand bar, but that Jesus had actually walked across the sea to meet up with them.

Next morning the multitude wake up and went to the shore and had remember that the disciples had gotten on one boat together and that Jesus was not with them.  Good observation, and then that there was a small boat left there and it was only one boat.  A little while later other boats came the near to the place where they had eaten.  And after it was obvious that Jesus nor His disciples where there, they got in the small boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

There is something important to notice here that not all the people who are seeking Jesus are doing so for the right motives or reason.  There are a great number of people even today who seek Him for many reasons that are not necessarily bad, but perhaps wrongly motivated.  Some want Jesus to provide for their every need, others to bring about heal, still others for happiness or security, and still yet those that seek Him for personal gain.  There are not too many that come seeking Jesus to worship Him as Lord because He is, whether or not He did anything else for them.  When it comes to Jesus what are our motives?  Why we seek Him will reveal a great deal about who we believe Jesus to be and what our level of commitment to Him might be as well.

When they find Jesus on the other side they ask Him, “when did You get here?”  Although, they did not actually see Jesus walking on the water as the disciples had, it would have been impossible for Him under natural circumstances to have gotten there so quickly.  Then in just a few short verses the crowd again asks for a sign.  Many times we may be tempted to ask for a sign from God or Jesus as proof, where then is faith.  Well Jesus if you would just do this or that so I could know for certain who you are and that I can trust you will my life.  Faith is believing that what God said is true of Himself and His Son and then acting on the reality in obedience to Him.  We can’t serve Him if we are not obedient.

The Fourth Sign-The Feeding of the 5,000-Jul. 11, 2012

The Fourth Sign-The Feeding of the 5,000-July 11, 2012

Scripture:  John 6:1-15, 25-35

In looking at the signs being performed by Jesus on those that were sick were gaining Jesus a following.  Crowds began to gather to find out more about Jesus and who he was.  It is interesting how our desire to look for the great things sometimes blind us from seeing a deeper truth.  We learn that the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.  Remember here is well one of the themes is Jesus’ taking the Passover meal with His disciples on the last night and instituting it as His (the Lord’s Supper).  There is understood both in this sign and in that Passover time as well that there is always more than adequate provisions when we trust God, whether to meet our earthly needs or in terms of our salvation.

Jesus notices the crowd forming and asks Philip “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?”  Notice Jesus didn’t ask how much it would cost, but where was the supply to come from?  He asked Philip as a test, because Jesus already had different intentions.  Philip goes back to viewing things in human terms and begins to reason the financial cost of what it would take to feed them not to mention how very little each would get.  It could hardly be considered a meal.

Then Andrew says, there is a boy here with his lunch, five small loaves and two fish, but what would that really do to help feed so many?  Jesus instructed the people to have a seat, and there were so many that the men numbered about five thousand.  There was not any mention of how many more there were or if this number included women and children.  Jesus then took the loaves and the fish blessed them and He distributed to those that were seated to have as much as they wanted.

And when they were filled, He asked the disciples to gather up what was left so that none would be lost or wasted.  They each had a full basket from the remains of the five loaves and two fish after feeding the multitude.  After the people had seen the sign performed, they said, “This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Jesus withdraws to solitude but when next the crowd finds Him on the other side of the sea, they asked Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?  Jesus ignores their question and instead confronts their hearts.  He told them that they were not seeking Him because they saw the sign, but because they thought they had a meal ticket.  He instructs them not to work for the food that perishes, but for that which endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give.

They ask about doing the work of God, and Jesus response is that you believe in Him whom He has sent.  They work is really not a work but a trusting of the work already done by God through faith.  The people then ask for a sign (as if their last meal was not enough), and they said God have  their father bread from heaven to eat.  Jesus reminds them it was not the work of Moses, but rather of God who give the true bread from heaven, and this bread give life to the world.

Then they say, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.”  Jesus tells them that He is the bread of life and none shall be hungry, and he who believes will never be thirsty.

Deacons: God’s Servants-Jul. 8, 2012

Deacons:  God’s Servants-July 8, 2012

Scripture:  Acts 6:1-6, and other selected verses

When we think of the role of Deacon within the church several common ideas or themes might initially pop up.  One of which is the notional of Deacons as the lay leadership within the church, and another deals with the idea of a “board” of Deacons.  In thinking about these ideas it becomes a little more evident that the view of board of Deacons seems to come more from the corporate world and less from scripture. If the Deacons are the “board”, then is the Pastor CEO?  There is one head of the church that is Christ, although we are all called to different responsibilities within the body, we are all called to serve.  The word deacon itself is literally service or servant.  In looking at this then a Deacon is a leader but in regards to their service.  It is because of their service, that a deacon becomes a more effective leader in the church, and not simple so because of a vote.

Deacons in the bible were also one’s who were involved in the practical ministries of the church.  Acts 6 describes how the first deacons came to be.  It was a time when the church was increasing in number and due to this increase there were those that were falling through the cracks when it came to practical ministry.  And so in the process the twelve call together the church ask them to select seven to help with the practical ministries of the church while the twelve would continue in the word and in prayer.  It is not that one was any less significant but there were different callings, gifts, and needs.  As the need arose the church came together to recognize the need and to come up with a solution to the problem.  As a result of this need came those that we would know as the first deacons.

Deacons should have good reputations, full of Spirit and wisdom.  Verse 6 states that they brought these men that were selected to the apostles; and after praying they laid their hands on them.  And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.  This process of laying on of hands and setting aside these persons for the special call of God to serve Him by serving in the practically needs of the church.  In the use of these servant to handle the practical aspects of the church then the twelve were able to continue more focused on the ministry of the word and to prayer.

Psalm 100:2 mentions that we serve the Lord with gladness.  Are we glad to serve the Lord whether we are a Deacon or not.  Christ in Matthew 20:28 mentions that he did not come to be served, but to serve.  This idea of service is different from the idea of the board room.  It is through love that we serve one another (Galatians 5:13).  Service is really what we are all to be about.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy he addresses some concerns about the role of Deacon or servant:  I Timothy 3:8-13 states that a deacon must be a man of dignity, not double tongued, addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain.  In other words their deeds and actions must complement one another, they must be careful(as all Christians should) of how we speak to others, and be careful of serving for the purpose of your own gain.  Holding on the mystery of faith in Christ Jesus, and let them be tested, and if beyond reproach then let them serve.

Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things(I Tim. 3:11 NASB).  Women as men should be aware of how their lifestyle could impact their service.  The scripture says, being dignified, and not to engage in hurtful gossip and discord, but be faithful and level-headed.  Paul also in Romans 16:1 commends Pheobe  to the Roman church a deaconess of the church which is at Cenchrea, and asks the she be received as such and considers her a great help to himself and many others.

Deacons should only have one spouse and their home should be in order.  For those that have served well as deacons that they obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith.  As they serve well, they become recognized for their service, and more confident in the faith.

In the early church when a real need and concern arose the leaders called together the church to act to meet that very need and chose servant hearted people of good reputation to work to meet this need.  In today’s church there may be new needs that arise as well, it should be the desire of the church to come together in practical and creative ways to meet those needs and serve faithfully as Christ’s very own.  Although deacons are one’s set aside for practical ministry in a congregation, this does not remove the need of all Christians to serve faithfully their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is in service that we demonstrate or obedience to God through Christ Jesus, and show His great love to the world.  May we be faithful as we seek to serve Him together, for the greater glory of His kingdom.