Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sermon-- Offensive Draft Pick by Jesus-- Mark 2:13-17

The audio for this message can be found here.

Yesterday was the start of something big in NFL circles. The Draft. Each year, college players are poked, prodded, processed, and timed. And the teams pick the best players, or the ones who will best fit the needs of their team. But it’s not an exact science, there have been some terrible decisions. Some decisions draw the ire of the fans because they are astounded by the horrible decision that has just been made. And there have been some great players that have sat on the shelf—that no one saw their greatness, their competitive spirit, rather only their flaws, deficiencies and weaknesses.

Draft Picks—Yesterday—NFL Greatest Draft Steals--
• QB Joe Montana (Notre Dame)--Drafted by: 49ers, third round, No. 82 overall, 1979—3rd QB
• QB Tom Brady (Michigan)--Drafted by: Patriots, sixth round, No. 199 overall, 2000
• Brett Favre—was picked in the 2nd round--#31 by the Atlanta Falcons—but immediately traded him to Green Bay thinking he wasn’t worth it.
• S Rodney Harrison (Western Illinois)--Drafted by: Chargers, fifth round, No. 145 overall, 1994

Sometimes the ones that are the true champions are the less obvious—the hidden gems—that nobody talks about, that nobody expects much of.

Jesus made a habit of doing this—making offensive picks. If Jesus was a team’s draft expert—there would be calls for His firing. I mean, look at the kind of men Jesus picked for His team.

James and John were a bit judgmental—disrespect for Jesus deserves fire from heaven in their mind—hardly the best example of turn the other cheek

One was a zealot--violent and quick to a fight

Peter—one who is a loud-mouth, uneducated, boastful, but not courageous enough to back up his boasts.

One of Jesus choices betrayed Him

But Jesus, being God in the Flesh did what God often does—He chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise—according to Paul, to the larger Christian community—1 Corinthians 1:26--“think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential, not many were of noble birth.”

They were reaches—they were bad draft picks—the kind of people Jesus picked were the ones that you least expected and despised—what’s worse—some didn’t think they could play the game or even have a place at the table. And it was offensive.

Offensive Decisions—Read Mark 2:13-14

You probably know this, but there are some professions in this country that just get ripped to pieces on a regular basis. April 15th is only a couple of weeks in the past and for many of you, you may still have a bad taste in your mouth. Not only do we not like taxes, we often don’t like tax collectors—here’s a couple of examples.

Q: How is golf like taxes?
A: Well, you drive hard to get to the green, and then you wind up in the hole
Q. What is the difference between a terrorist and a tax inspector?
A. You can negotiate with a terrorist.

"What's the difference between an overzealous tax auditor and a rottweiler? Answer: "A rottweiler eventually lets go!"

"Why do sharks not attack tax auditors?" Answer: "Professional courtesy."

If we were to be given the opportunity to look into the faces of the crowd that day, we’d probably see several qualified, good looking, popular and resourceful people. I can imagine us tapping Jesus on the shoulder and saying—“hey, look at that one—they would be great to add to the team.”

The last one we would expect is the one who is not allowed in the church (synagogue) because he’s been kicked out. The last one we’d expect to see Jesus would want us to talk to about faith and salvation and the call is the one with no respectable friends, the one who is in fact so unpopular that he is hated as an outcast and who at least is suspected of cheating those who pay him anything.

Jesus Sees People In the Crowd in ways that we do not—the way we cannot—the way we are unwilling to and the way that is offensive to us.

Of all the people along the way, Levi sitting there in his tax collector’s booth—ripping people off—he’s not one we would think would respond to an invitation from Jesus.

Levi was able to listen while at work—listen to Jesus teaching the crowd. Jesus’ message wasn’t complicated—Follow me—and Levi did—he got up and followed Jesus

The one Least Likely to Respond—responded.—oh, but that’s Jesus.

When you and I live our lives as disciples of Jesus we too often fall for this attitude—“Oh, I’m not going to bother sharing Christ with this person, I know they’ll say no—they’ve still go too many problems and issues—I know they will not respond to Jesus so I’m not even going to ask—I’m not going to risk it—I’m not going to waste my time.”

You don’t know!!! You can’t wait around in life for the sure thing, the guarantee—if you waited only for that before acting—then you would never do, say, accomplish anything. You are not responsible for someone responding favorably to Jesus.

You must not second guess yourself into silence when the opportunity to testify to your faith is before you—even if they are the hardest case, the most indifferent—you are not going to convince anyone—that’s God’s job—you are responsible to be faithful and share—be prepared by all means—but leave the results to Him.

There are few people clamoring for you to tell them about Jesus, few saying—“Pick Me!” when Jesus—in the form of you--passes by.

Not only is Levi on the Least Likely to Respond list—in most people’s mind—a tax collector like Levi should also be on Galilee’s Most Wanted—for the belief that he is lining his own pockets by ripping off of his fellow Jews. They looked at Tax Collectors—working for the Roman authorities as Traitors. So on one hand, Levi was on Galilee’s Most Wanted-- but he would also qualify for Galilee’s Most Unwanted—he’s a sell out—he’s a cheat—he’s not good enough.

That’s what we see.

You don’t really want “that sort” to be a part of the church, do you? They don’t look like us—different culture, different race, they don’t act like us, they aren’t smart enough, they don’t have enough, they have too much, they’re snobby. They work at a bar, they don’t work at all.

The Patriot—the movie with Mel Gibson had dialog that reflected this. The father and son went out to sign up people to serve in the South Carolina militia against the British during the Revolutionary War. The son, went to a church to sign people up because they are good men of principle, who believe in the cause of liberty. The father goes to a local pub to find men who know how to fight and who are mean enough to actually do it and not just talk about it. When the son sees the men his father signed up he says, “These aren’t the sort of men we need.” The father responds by saying, "these are exactly the sort we need. They've fought this kind of war before." One of the father's recruits comes to him and asks: "Am I that sort?" "No, you’re the sort that gives that sort a bad name." to which the man responds in laughter.

See, underlying the thoughts that says—I don’t think they’ll respond—underlying that, if we’re honest with ourselves—in many instances is the notion that we don’t really want them to respond--we don't want "that sort" to come to our church.

What kind of people do we want?
The Kind of people we want to start coming to this church are the kind that know their Bible? That’s good, right?

We want the Kind of people we want to start coming to this church are the kind that don’t drink, smoke, cuss, or work at the bar, right?

That’s Wrong!

The kind of people we want and need to start coming to this church are the kind that don’t know what the Bible is—who have only seen a Bible under 3 inches of dust, who wouldn’t qualify to read the "Bible for Dummies".

We need to invite the kind that don’t know that the Bible is the Word of God, who don’t know that God loves them, that Jesus loves them and that He died for their sins and that He rose from the dead in Victory. You know why?

Because we can show them that we believe it, believe that we have "good news". We can teach them those things—because they will learn their Bible, actually read their Bible when they see us living our claims.

We actually want the people who don’t know to stop drinking yet, who don’t know to stop cussing yet, who work at the bar—because we can love them and show them another way to live— if we want to see the transformational power of the Love of God working in the People of God by the Word of God--"that's the sort we need". We want and need those kinds of people in church so you and I can be a part of the God at Work.

Levi was one of those guys—someone who everyone tells to pass right on by—Levi? He’s not the sort we need.

Let me put it this way. How many of you have ever caught a fish? When you caught it, was it already de-scaled, de-boned and filleted, ready to cook? NO—you get those at the grocery store. What would you do if you pulled in your line and the fish looked like this? Would you think there was something wrong? I sure hope so!

We want the cleaned up kind of people, the ones who are already know their Bible because they require less of us, less time, less effort, less building of a disciple—less chance of ruffling my feathers, less chance of offending my self-righteousness.

Jesus doesn’t see people that way. Jesus—He sees people in their sin and moves to intercept.

Sees People In Need of the Life Changing Power & Influence of God—He sees the Least Likely, He sees the Sinners--and rather than shrinking away from them, rather than avoiding them—He seeks them out—He goes where they are—He befriends them. He calls them—and they rejoice.

READ 2:15—Luke 5 tells us that in response to Jesus calling him, in response to Jesus inviting him, in response to Jesus giving him a chance to participate in the spiritual life—Levi throws a party—he hosts a great banquet at his home.

Now how many of you, when you meet an alcoholic and talk to him about Jesus--when they invite you to their house for a party—you’re like—sure, love to!

How many of you when you meet a criminal want to go back to their house to hang out his buddies that just got out of jail?

Now unfortunately for Jesus reputation—the only friends an outcast can invite into his home are other outcasts—more tax collectors, more people with their lives out of whack—more people who have rejected God. Upon seeing the guest list, you or I may be inclined to avoid going altogether. Not Jesus. Jesus goes and celebrates with them—has dinner with them.

And that is offensive—to who? The religious types—the Pharisees, the teachers of the law. Because you know this dinner crowd probably don’t have their life in order, all cleaned up. Weren't upstanding members of the synagogue.

Jesus called Levi—and he responded in faith—but he had a long way to go—his life was headed for some major changes—but before he even had the chance, he did invite all his friends to meet Jesus. Here was a sinner, who’s life is being transformed—and Jesus was right in the middle of it—and not everyone liked it.

READ vs. 16—

Let me share with you a story that I read this week from a pastor of a young man named Eric.
Whole unedited story can be found here:

He was driving by the church with a pistol underneath the front seat, an open container of beer in the cup holder, and was on his way to an open field where he would drink himself to drunkenness in order to have the courage to commit suicide. As he drove past the church he the church sign that said, "Prepare to Meet Thy God." The words so rattled him he turned into the parking lot and prayed, "God, if you are sending me a sign, let someone be inside this church to help me." The Lord answered his prayer.

Guess what, he went in, talked to a minister and got saved! The next Sunday..

--First person testimony--
When the appropriate time came "I" introduced him to our church. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to introduce you to a young man who this week was intent on killing himself, but God has intervened. This is Eric . . ." As I was speaking to the crowd I turned to look at Eric and to my horror, I saw Eric was wearing a Budweiser Beer T-Shirt that said, "Budweiser, King of Beers."

I knew some of the deacons would be upset. Sure enough, after church one of the older deacons came up to me and said, "Pastor, did you talk to Eric?" Acting ignorant, though knowing full well what he meant, I said, "About what?" "Did you tell him he ought not be wearing that beer t-shirt in church? It ain't appropriate."

I took a deep breath and said, "No, I didn't. He has just come to faith in Christ. If we begin to tell him what he can't do, shouldn't do, ought not do, etc . . . we quench the work of the Spirit by imposing a law. Let's love him, get to know him, and encourage him - but let's stay away from the 'should nots' of religion and give time for his relationship with Christ to develop."

Apparently Eric had quite a collection of Beer shirts and for the next 4 weeks, he wore one to church. The pastor says it was difficult at times to hold his tongue. But then, on the 5th Sunday, Eric walked in wearing one of these.

About the fifth Sunday Eric came to church wearing a new t-shirt. It was a t-shirt with a Christian logo. He had found a Christian t-shirt store and, prompted by the Spirit, Eric purchased several t-shirts with a Christian message.

That Sunday he had traded in his "Budweiser: King of Beers" t-shirt for one that said, "Jesus Christ: King of Kings." Christ had Eric's heart. The change that occurred happened within. There was not the demand for conformity imposed upon this young Christian by a Southern Baptist congregation, but rather, there was the powerful, internal work of the Spirit within the heart of a man that experienced the love, acceptance and patience of a people who themselves had tasted of the grace of God

READ 2:17--

Ministry with the sick is messy—it makes us uncomfortable—but that is exactly the kind of mercy and love we need if we are going to survive as a church.
Jesus doesn’t look at us in terms of “I don’t want that one.” Or “Least Likely to Respond” All Jesus sees is the hunger, the spiritual need, the longing for something real, the power of the Kingdom of God. Levi, better known as Matthew—went from a bad reputation tax collector and sinner, to the author of one of the Gospels of Jesus life.

We better know who Jesus is because He reached out to "that sort".

At some point, we were that sort. You and I were the ones that in some way or another were sitting behind the tax collector's booth.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11-- Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Have you ever thought, “I can’t imagine what God would do if He ever got a hold of _____________--there’s no telling what God could do through them.”

Who did you think of? Maybe you thought of someone famous. Tell me, how many of the Apostles were famous before Jesus met them?

Now, how many of you thought of someone other than yourself?

There’s the problem with the church in the world today—it's usually filled by somebody other than me.

At one point—you were the one sitting in the tax booth. God looks at you and He looks at me just like He did this small town tax collector and He says to Himself—“If Only they would let Me into their hearts, if only the would let Me change them, if only they would let Me use them! I can change the world!”

At some point looking over the crowds, looking at the least likely, in the mind and heart of God—He was thinking of you—If He can only get a hold of your heart—my heart—

Are there "that sort" of people around you sitting at the Tax Booth?
Are you still sitting at the tax booth?

The Jesus wants to invite you to a greater life.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sermon-- Forgiveness Offensive?--Mark 2:1-12

The Audio for this message can be found here.

Mark 2:1-12

Forgiveness is Offensive?

Imagine for a moment—you’re a executive manager of a company—everyone looks to you. Scratch that, you’re a tenured professor and an important figure on your campus. You’ve helped set up the program and are conducting several important research projects. Then you get assigned a Graduate Assistant. And the students love it when you miss class and you GA has to teach for you. In fact, as soon as they see you’re not there, they call all their friends and class attendance triples—every seat is taken, some sit on the floor, others stand in the back of the room. To add insult to injury—while you were away defending your request for a grant, in the middle of one of your experiments, this graduate assistant comes in and reorganizes everything—“trust me, I know better then the Professor does”—he changes the procedure, changes the subject of the experiment, changes the objective—all because he insists he’s got a better way.

What do you say when you get back and see what’s going on?

“I don’t care how popular you with the students: Who gave you the right to make these changes? Who do you think you are?”

“Don’t worry Professor,” the graduate assistant says. “I’ve already finished all the experiments and processed the data—thanks to my changes, I’ve more than justifies your grant and may in fact revolutionize the field. You can thank me later.”

Welcome to the world of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law with Jesus on the scene. A young, upstart teacher who knows more than you do, is more popular than you are, and has an uncanny way of proving it.

As we’ve been looking at the Gospel of Mark—it only gets worse in ch. 2

1. Offending Crowds--Read 1-4
a. Standing Room Only—Once again, Jesus was attracting a crowd—unlike any crowd that ever came for one of the regular Saturday Sabbaths. Clearly Jesus was something different—He had some spark about Him that everyone was attracted to—an uncertainty that they were about to see God do something in their midst that hadn’t been done before. He was continuing to do what He had said was His purpose—Jesus was preaching the word to the crowds.
b. A little professional Jealousy would be understandable at this point—What’s He got that I don’t? He’s no better than I am. Heresy is always able to attract a crowd—if it’s popular, it must be wrong.

c. Into this crowd comes Desperation personified. Here was this man who was trapped in his own body—paralyzed—he could not go to Jesus on his own. Taking care of this man required others giving of themselves and their willingness to help. We have no idea how he got this way—whether he was born paralyzed or due to some accident. But he had friends and family that believed that if anyone could help him, Jesus could.

d. But there was a problem. There were many obstacles in the way. The crowds, the popularity, the limited space. I suspect there were even those who didn’t think someone like this paralytic deserved to be in Jesus’ presence—b/c he probably is so sinful that he deserves

e. Think about the obstacles you face in bringing people to church or bringing people to Jesus. What reasons do we give? “They work on Sunday”, “I’ve already asked them before and they said no.”, “I’m worried about what they will think of me.”

f. What if these friends had given up—“Oh well, there’s a crowd. I guess we should just take him home.” “These people are rude—can’t they see our friend needs to see Jesus.” “I really don’t want to dig through the roof—last time I checked, destruction of private property isn’t a good evangelism strategy.”

g. It is my belief that we give up too easily in seeking to bring our friends, family, co-workers to Jesus. They say “No” one time, and we tuck our tails between our legs and never bring it up again.

h. Determination and Persistence and realizing that Jesus is the only One who can truly heal and forgive—Jesus saw that kind of faith commendable and He responded to it.

i. Vs. 5—it was their faith, the faith of the men bringing the paralytic that Jesus sees and responds to. This man’s body was twisted and paralyzed physically, you would think that Jesus would address this problem first—but He doesn’t. Apparently, in Jesus’ mind, the man’s greater need was spiritual—maybe He saw that everyone else thought sin was the problem.

j. “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Even if Jesus never healed his physical body—providing forgiveness for his sins was the greater miracle.

k. Here again, Jesus offends the teachers and leaders—this time by proclaiming forgiveness.

2. Offensive Forgiveness--God’s Territory
a. Why is forgiveness offensive? Why in this case would Jesus even bring up its need?

b. Our culture is not so different from theirs. Many times, when we see bad situation happen to someone, we try to figure out why. In many cases, we look at the things that person has done to bring it on themselves. Today, we just couch it in medical terms: “If he had just eaten better all those years, he wouldn’t have had that heart attack.” “She smoked at least a pack a day, it’s no wonder she’s got cancer.” “I can’t have too much sympathy for someone who risked his life like that—(parachuting, sex, rock climbing, speeding)”

c. This man must have been considered sinful—why else would this man be so paralyzed—He must have done something to deserve it. God must have been punishing this man for something. He was the type that the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law would have counseled by saying, “brother, confess your sins, and God will heal you. Confess your sins, have faith—and if you are worthy—God will heal you.” Gee, you’re not healed—either you’re more sinful than thought, or you must not be worthy.

d. And with that—they could walk on by and never give him another thought. I hope you see from this passage that sometimes healing is not about your crying out, not about your persistence, but the persistence of those praying for you.
e. Son, your sins are forgiven.

f. How dare He say that— READ 5-7--forgiveness is the realm of God’s alone
g. Psalm 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

h. Isaiah 43:25 "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
i. The audacity of Jesus is astounding. By saying this man was forgiven, Jesus was claiming to be able to do something only God could do—he was blaspheming. Only God had that kind of authority—Only God could forgive sin. These teachers understood the implication immediately.

j. Jesus was walking into a realm that the teachers of the law would never go—they could never pronounce forgiveness—but Jesus did and

k. He did it without the sacrifice—Jesus didn’t tell the man to get cleaned up, to go to the temple and make offerings. Jesus demanded no confession or repentance from the man. He responds to faith—and a desperation—He cleanses.

l. For some, this willingness to forgive and show mercy is unacceptable and offensive. They want to see the wicked get toasted—they look forward to the Fire & Brimstone. Jonah in the OT was hoping that Nineveh would be destroyed—James & John, the Sons of Thunder wanted to call down fire from heaven simply because a Samaritan village didn’t welcome Jesus.

m. The thought of Forgiveness & Mercy Offends, especially those that think of themselves as righteous. To suggest that forgiveness was available without sacrifice drew into question the entire existence of the people, the law, the Temple.

n. Does Jesus offer forgiveness at no cost? Think about that? When someone wants to give you a gift, many times we receive it with suspicion—“what’s the catch?” or “what do you expect in return?” or “what’s this going to cost me?”

o. Jesus says, “you can be forgiven at no cost to you. All I ask is that you repent—stop going the wrong way—Trust & Receive.

3. Offensive Knowledge & Healing?—6-12
a. Jesus knew their hearts—sometimes there’s nothing more disconcerting to realize that someone knows exactly what’s going through your head—knowing exactly how you’re going to respond, what you’re going to say or do. How could they know me so well? Am I that transparent?

b. It’s disturbing playing a chess master when they can predict your moves in advance.

c. Of course, knowing someone knows you so well is also a sign of love and closeness—see Jesus knows your heart and mind because He shared in our creation—He loves us so much that He knows us. But our hearts are also like open books before Him—His word cuts to our hearts.

d. Which is easier? Some people claim a lot of things—that doesn’t make it true. Some people claim to be prophets, some healers, some mouthpieces for God—but just because they claim it, doesn’t mean it’s true.

e. Under other circumstances—with someone else—you and I would be right there with the teachers of the law—“excuse me? You can’t really speak for God!”

f. Jesus acknowledges it—anybody can make the claim—but not everybody can back it up. “Get up, take your mat ant walk.”

g. Jesus command over the physical condition—which they had likely attributed to sin—was proof that He had command over the spiritual condition.

h. He did this “so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…”

i. Jesus had knowledge of their hearts. He proved to have greater authority than the teachers of the law. And that claim—that Knowledge & Authority was offensive.

j. Jesus claims to know more than you know—Jesus claims more authority over your body than you have—Jesus claims more authority over your sin than you have.

k. Is it any wonder that some of His listeners were offended? He didn’t sugar coat or gloss over this man’s need of forgiveness, but confronted it with the offer of forgiveness.

l. Many people are offended at Jesus—many people allow obstacles to stop them from coming to Jesus. And sadly many times we who are here—we the ones already before Jesus are the Obstacle—blocking those who are desperately coming to Jesus.

m. Are there any obstacles in your way today? Jesus has the authority to heal and forgive—to give purpose and meaning. See past all those obstacles, all those things that are between you and Him and come—just as you are.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Who Could Be Opposed to Prayer?--Mark 1:35-45

The audio for this message will be better and more developed than the text. I dared to stray more often than usual! Some, I know will be proud of me :-)

I'll get the audio posted ASAP

Who Could Be Opposed to Prayer?

Very few people refuse prayer. Most people believe and practice some form of prayer—even without knowing who or what you’re praying to—many people will appreciate the concern and good will expressed in prayer. But not everyone appreciated Jesus and His efforts at prayer—often because He came back changed and empowered for great ministry.

Mark 1:35—39
1. Jesus Went Out to Pray and Came Back with Renewed Purpose--Changed and Charged

a. Left the house—sometimes special places are necessary
b. Solitary place—a place without interruption or distraction
c. How possible in the busy world? How possible with kids or other demands? Realize just how important and necessary our prayer life is—without it, we’re not hearing from God and you’ll have a hard time knowing what God would have you do.

d. Somewhere in His time of prayer, Jesus got the message that He had stayed in one place long enough. Jesus went out to pray and He came back with a greater Purpose.

e. Jesus Returned saying—let us go somewhere else. My ministry can no longer stay in this isolated, small pocket—there are many people who are hurting many people who are sick, many people affected by the Deceiver—I need to go to them—the nearby villages

f. So in this respect, Prayer broke the monotony, broke the stagnant, commonplace existence. If it feels like nothing is moving or happening in your life, if it feels like you’re staying in the same place all the time, then seek God’s direction and Purpose. Jesus went out in prayer and came back with a message to shake things up!

g. Time With God Gave Jesus Direction & Instruction—even Jesus sought time alone with God to seek His will, His Presence, His voice.

h. But the last thing those who were losing influence wanted was for Jesus to really be communing with God and receiving Purpose and power from Him.

i. Jesus Came Back with Renewed Purpose--Communion With God Gives or Reminds Us of Our Purpose

j. Let’s Go So I can preach there also—that is Why I Have Come

k. He didn’t just want to move for the sake of moving—He had something to do—to preach—the Good News of God’s Love—of Redemption & Repentance.

l. What’s amazing to me is what He doesn’t say-- as much as what He says. He didn’t say, I came to Heal. He didn’t say, I have come to drive our demons—No—Jesus says I have come to Preach—somehow or another, this sharing of the Good News to all was more important—had a greater eternal value, this preaching brought healing, brought deliverance and rescue from the demonic. Those things happened as a result of the courage and boldness of preaching the Good News and the Kingdom of God.

m. Who could be against this? We’ve already seen how the teachers of the law and the Pharisees are opposed to this teaching. And they would be opposed to Jesus gaining any more influence or popularity. By expanding His ministry area, Jesus would be drawing their ire. But not only because of the expansion, but how He went forward, and what He did.

2. Jesus Went Forward With Enhanced Power & Compassion--—vs. 40-45

a. As a Result—of leaving what had become His base, Jesus Saw God move, saw God’s hand at work. Sometimes you and I miss God’s Hand at work when we stay where it’s too comfortable, when we don’t break out explore new territory.

b. What Jesus found was more people hurting and in need of the healing touch of God. Jesus’ renewed purpose also came with Enhanced Power and Compassion.

c. Communion With God Enhances our Compassion—makes us think of others more than ourselves.. The Power of God is at work when we minister to those hurting and in need

d. You would think that helping someone like this man would draw praise—but let me assure you again, that this is not the case. Jesus touches someone no one else would—He crossed a line that the Pharisees and teachers of the law would not. They kept this man at a distance. He was an outcast until “he confessed his sin” and God restored him.

e. Jesus was not afraid of this man like these others were in their hypocrisy. They were not moved to compassion, they were moved to scorn. And the contrast between them couldn’t be more clear.

f. We have to check ourselves here—there are many conditions in which we hesitate and draw back— we often want people to get their lives together first, to get themselves clean and sober before we really welcome them into church with all of their disruptions and problems.

g. We’ll ask people how they are doing—but we want to hear “I’m fine” more than, I’m really struggling today. We’ll pray for those who’s marriages are struggling or who are dealing with alcohol addictions but we don’t want to really get involved. Do we really want to cross a line and help someone with AIDS?

h. Jesus did not fear crossing social barriers to reach the lost, the hurting, the outcast. He even touched this man—something that may not have happened for years. In this ministry—after receiving a refreshing Power and Compassion from His time in Prayer, Jesus touched this man and healed him.

i. Immediately—the leprosy left him.

j. Not only did Jesus touch someone who shouldn’t be touched, but He did something they themselves had been unable to do—heal this disease.

k. And notice, that the people he wants to know about it are not the masses, but the priests. Do everything right as the Law commands “as a testimony to them.”

l. In Mark, this is the first person sent out with the Good News. He had called Peter and some others, but they had not been sent out yet. Jesus sends this man to the Priests—to be a witness—to the ones who may be the most opposed to Him. He wanted the priests to see and confirm the healing so the man could re-enter the community of faith—kind of like going back to the doctor for a 2nd opinion or test. But the intention was also so they may believe and bear testimony to the power of God—they have an even bigger platform from which to proclaim—if the priests and Levites got on board with what Jesus was doing, then more of Israel could be saved. Those who were supposed to be closest to God—also needed to hear the Good News.

m. Those of us who are familiar with God, those of us who think we’ve got God figured out—we need to be reached—we still need to see God at work—see His power touch someone’s life—if we don’t we will become stagnant, stale and powerless. We won’t really be able to help those in need—those who are struggling and in need of a touch from God.

n. You and I need to be reminded of how Good God is—how we draw our purpose and our power, even our compassion from our Time with Him in prayer.

o. Word spread--The man goes out and spreads the word so much that it disrupted Jesus’ ability to effectively minister in town—but those most involved in the church were not reached with this Healing.

p. The man’s healing is marred by the word, “instead”. Instead of following Jesus’ directive to show himself to the priest, the man tells everyone else. Jesus had intentionally, I believe, wanted this man to testify to the religious leaders so they would have a better opportunity to believe themselves. Now, God still spread the word, still accomplished good from the disobedience (an encouraging thought) but perhaps the real opportunity was lost. I pray that our lives and our walk with Christ cannot be marked by the word, “Instead”.

q. You and I need a Greater sense of our Purpose—but also a Greater Power and Compassion—it will come when we truly pray for one another—when we leave our cloistered faith and take it out to those who need to hear the Good News.

r. Only when we do that will see more of God at work in our lives.

s. And if you are here today, needing a touch from God—in need of healing—know that it won’t happen without coming to Him. This man “came to [Jesus]”, sought Him out and received the blessing of Jesus’ touch.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sharing an Analogy

I posted the following over on Wade Burleson's site. This particular post was about how the control of information is being manipulated, even within our International Mission Board and the unchristian attitudes that were being expressed.

If you are new to the debate--it's a long story! But much of it centers around Convictions and Interpretations of Scripture and how to apply those in a Cooperative Missions setting. What can we disagree on and still work together for the Gospel? Do we have to agree on everything? How much should a personal conviction be turned into a policy decision?

So, I wrote a story to convey a sad parallel. Here's my post.

Sarcasm Alert!

I'm just glad Dr. Floyd was able to translate and make sense of Dr. Rankin's letter for the Trustees who are obviously not able or not trustworthy enough to do it for themselves.

End Sarcasm Alert!
Here's an analogy (I know you'll be able to find fault in it, but here goes anyway)

One church is taking a long bus trip for a missions effort. Along the way, they drive through the SW United States. Somewhere in the back, someone suggests that they should stop to eat, stretch and go to the bathroom. Immediately a group forms discussing the benefits of particular stops and food (do they sell alcohol in this establishment may be one ;-) ).

Meanwhile, the bus driver calls the pastor to the front and tells him--"the last stop for 200 miles is coming up in just a couple of minutes. It's got a restaurant.--might be important for your discussion.


The pastor sees that the last stop is a Citgo and he has a personal conviction to boycott all of Hugo Chavez's institutions. So he goes back to the group and says "All I know is that I don't want to stop at no Citgo", to several nodding heads, other confused looks, but saying nothing about the last stop coming up.[edit from original--The conversation then got sidetracked into why Citgo should be boycotted.]

Finally someone looks out the window and notices the "Last Stop in 5 Miles" sign. "Hey Pastor, I just saw a sign about the last stop ahead. Should we tell the bus driver to pull over?"

The pastor then goes on to explain that he doesn't believe it when he sees those signs because in reality those signs are just advertising gimmicks to get people to stop. How it's illogical to believe there won't be more stops. Besides he's pretty sure the place sells alcohol.

So they decide to wait for the next stop. As they pass, they notice it is a Citgo, but no one notices that a young family who needs to hear about Jesus has the hood of their car propped up and is in need of assistance.

Too bad the mechanic that came with you on the trip didn't get to go to the bathroom in the Citgo.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts on the story.

P.S.--DT Boy... we're going to have to talk!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Sermon-- The Message that Sent Jesus to the Cross-- Pt. 2

Last week we began looking at the Gospel of Mark for reasons why people would have wanted to send Jesus to the Cross. From Mark 1, last week we looked: Here is the Audio of the message.

1. A Message Shared with a Criminal
2. A Message of Fulfillment
3. A Message of Repentance
4. A Message of the Good News

All of these things contributed to many wanting to send Jesus to the Cross. Yes, even the Good News—that God is a God of Grace, that Salvation is a free gift that is not earned or deserved—so angered people, so stripped the religious Pharisees of unlawful authority that they opposed Him and hated Jesus for it.

But there’s more—there’s more in this passage that provided fuel to the fire.

1. A Message of Authority—1:21-22
a. Jesus has a teaching that is contrary to the world’s way of thinking. He comes right into the middle of our lives and teaches that mercy is better than sacrifice, that the thoughts and attitudes of the heart are just as important as one’s actions, that doing good in they eyes of man will never earn salvation. He confronts our apathy, He confronts our prejudices, He proclaims that the Love of God is not based on ceremony or ritual but forgiveness & holiness, especially sacrificial love. A love so great that the answer is that the innocent would lay down His life for the guilty.

b. But one thing that upset the local leadership is that it didn’t take people long to figure out that Jesus had a greater authority than they did.

c. One reason why Jesus stood out so much in this day and age was because very rarely would a speaker or teacher speak for themselves. They would always quote and say what someone else said. Some famous teacher, some commentary on the Torah. They would speak with someone else’s authority to try and bolster their own. Reading the words of Jesus, especially in the Sermon on the Mount—“You’ve heard it was said, but I say to you…”—it was different—Jesus spoke not just as one who had read and heard things all his life, but as One who knew the heart of God so well, One who remembered the intent of those laws when they were written before all the baggage

d. Matthew 7:28-29—“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
e. For years, the people had depended on the voices of the Pharisees and other teachers of the law. They were the Gatekeepers—Access to God was granted or restricted based upon the adherence to their rules and regulations.

f. They set the rules, they said what you could do and couldn’t do—only if you satisfied them, would you be granted access to God. but their rules were not based upon Scripture—but the additions of opinion—there were the rules of the law—and to avoid breaking those laws—we’ll make buffer laws, or we’ll make special exceptions so you can do the same thing without violating the law. You don’t have to honor your father and mother if you say “corban” and dedicate your wealth to God—after you die of course. You don’t have to honor the Sabbath if you follow certain paths, but you violate the Sabbath if you do good or pick a few seeds.

g. I’ve heard some—Christians shouldn’t play cards—shouldn’t go to the movies—women shouldn’t wear pants—no dancing—you must have a quiet time before your feet hit the floor out of bed. Many of these rules are not necessarily wrong—they have elements of truth and warnings of danger—but they are convictions—the hard part, the dangerous part —the excessive demand and rule comes when you or I try to take those convictions and make them rules or mandates that every “good” Christian should follow.

h. You do know what makes a good Christian don’t you? Everyone who agrees with me and does what I do.

i. Jesus is the only one who can say that. He possessed a greater authority than those in charge and the people were hungering and thirsting for it. That hasn’t changed.

j. So many people are hungering and thirsting for authoritative teaching. And there are many that are jumping forward to claim the title. Even Oprah is involved in a webcast of spiritual truth that thousands are following which says there is no such thing as sin—many ways to God—that the kind of divinity Jesus had is yours if you would only realize it. among other things that are contrary to biblical teaching. Many are claiming to be the authority—But Jesus is the one who has the Authority

k. And just in case there was any doubt to this authority, Jesus gives some proof with…
2. A Message of Power—vs. 23-26, 30, 32-34
l. Vs. 23-26—the demonic live in a spiritual reality—the things that we are typically not aware of is the reality they see every moment and understand.

m. The Demons Knew Him—“I know who you are”—they knew Jesus’ identity.
n. The Demons Feared Him —have you come to destroy us?—they knew what Jesus was capable of.
o. The Demons Obeyed Him
p. The Demons Fled from Him

q. Even the demons believed
r. Vs. 27-28

s. Such a contrary message—from other incidents in the New testament, we know that in Judaism, within the people blessed with the testimony of God’s intervention, blessed with the law, there were still people ravaged by demonic influence—some affected children, throwing them into the fire. Some were so violent and uncontrollable that they lived in tombs. Others caused an inability to speak. The demonic caused immense suffering—and many had lost hope at overcoming them. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were helpless when faced with this kind of opposition.

t. Then Jesus comes along—the demons know Him, they fear Him, they Obey Him. As long as this Jesus has this kind of power even over the spiritual world, then the teachers of the law would fear the influence of Jesus—“what do we do, they might start looking to Him, they might start listening to Him more than they listen to us.

u. Not just over the Demonic—but the Physical as well—vs 29-34—let’s us know that a fever, not caused by the demonic was cured—that many people with various diseases were brought to Jesus.

v. What’s worse for the leadership is that “the whole town gathered at the door” For those accustomed to being the mouthpiece of God, used to the attention and prestige for their religious authority—Jesus came in with authoritative teaching—came with demonstrations of authority of disease and the demonic.

w. Jesus claimed it, He proved it—and He awakened such an impassioned resistance even from the demonic that He was sent to the Cross—you will either want to embrace Jesus or you will want to crucify Him—this middle ground of –“Wow, He’s really interesting or a Good teacher” is not really a sustainable position—you must make a decision about who He is and what He has come to do.

x. Because it is in that message of authority and power that comes…

3. A Message of Calling—Mark 1:16-20
a. This good news Jesus did not allow His teachings to just become a nice set of laws or teaching philosophies. Jesus comes across people who’s hearts are seeking after God and He calls them out of their ordinary existence and puts them on the path of eternal significance. Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

b. He calls you and me to a decision—a decision that will radically change
i. what we are doing,
ii. why we are doing it and
iii. who we are doing it for.

c. Whatever you are doing in life—God calls you to a greater cause, a greater purpose, a greater more abundant life. I wonder what Jesus would have said if He had been walking in front of a bunch of
i. Accountants—Come, follow me and you will tally the harvest of heaven.
ii. Mechanics—Come, follow Me and I will have you repair those seeking the Way of Holiness
iii. Soldiers—Come, follow Me and I will have you rescue the fallen from behind enemy lines
iv. Professors—Come, follow Me and I will have you bring the true light to minds darkened by sin
v. Garbage Men—Come, follow Me and I will have you bring beauty to the unclean

d. There is no mundane life, no mundane job, no area of life that Jesus cannot transform into something glorious. The Call of God is to take our lives and Transform them into a grand adventure—for the Kingdom of God—it’s not about fame, fortune, brilliance, the bold or the beautiful—He calls you out of a life that does not fulfill our hearts desire and unite it to a more noble purpose.
e. 2 Timothy 2:20—“ In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
2TI 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

f. Gold, silver, wood, clay—all of them were capable of being used for noble purposes. We miss that fact sometimes. We sometimes thing that only the best, only the smartest, only the most talented, only the best paying are capable of being used for God’s glory. But that’s not true—a noble purpose is something that only God is able to give.

g. People in the world by nature, do not do things of a true, eternal, noble purpose—they may be able to accomplish some good, even great things—for themselves, for others—but our purposes are always tainted by our sin nature that come through and taints what we want to do with greed, selfishness—and accomplish things that will not make a difference in eternity.

h. The truly noble things, great and meaningful tings are the ones which Jesus invites us to—because what Jesus invites us to will have an Eternal Kingdom Value.

i. And these men were seeking something—seeking something greater, something bigger, something more inspiring than the daily grind. Their hearts were yearning for something significant. Do you share that? Do you share the desire for your life to mean something? It requires doing what they did—immediately, with desire and urgency—follow Him—even if it means leaving behind the comforting things.

j. Jesus is calling you and me out of where we are and into a life of significance. There is something more to be living for and Jesus is the one with the Authority and Power to show it to you!

k. Let me say that I don’t believe you will ever look at your job, your life, your opportunities the same way again when it is your heart’s desire to glorify God and draw people to Him in whatever you happen to be doing.

Friday, April 04, 2008

family pictures--

I received a new family camera from my parents since our last one broke. Here's a few of the fruits

Moriah's First Haircut!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Blessing, Beatitudes, Pure in Heart & Seeing God

Last night we at UBC continued our study of the Beatitudes. We spent more time focusing on “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

By “blessed”, I’m focusing on the Jewish culture blessing and the act of laying on of hands. In this sense, I’m taking the “blessed” to parallel the “hand of God” being on someone.

So paraphrasing, “the Hand of God is on the pure in heart, for they will see God.” The act or ceremony of Blessing brought someone close—you couldn’t bless someone in this way from a great distance. Jesus brought the children to Him. Jacob brought Joseph’s sons to him, as did Isaac bringing his son close to him. You get a good look at someone when they are that close to you.

We also looked at what it means to be “pure in heart”. Tonight at least, the definition of “pure” that really stood out was in the Levitical sense—clean—the use of which is not forbidden, imparts no uncleanness. Something didn’t have to be perfect in order to be clean—just set apart for the purpose of being used. A clean item is one which could theoretically be brought into the Temple to be used in ceremony of bringing glory to God.

That is what we are—we are being built into a temple, brought into His presence to be used for His Glory—we have been made clean and set apart for the master to use

2 Timothy 2:20-22—“ In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
2TI 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

The gold and silver are not the only things that can be used for noble purposes: even wood and clay can be used for noble purposes that are useful to the Master. We are to strive to be and instrument in the Hand of God, prepared to do any good work. And if He wants us to do something, He will empower us to do it—“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

When we are an instrument in His hand, we are not only close to Him—but we are seeing Him at work in our lives. We see God, not only in the ultimate salvific, eternal, return of Christ kind of way, but also in the way He chooses to use us, in the way He answers prayer, in the way, when we respond in obedience to His leading we see that we are His instrument in a higher calling. I for one want to see God more in this way—to see God more and more at work in my life. Pure in heart in many ways is about making yourself available to his hand.

Lord, make me pure in heart, a vessel set apart and clean for Your use—Help me to see You.

“Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see You.”