Saturday, September 20, 2014

Seeing, Listening, and Speaking

September 21, 2014Psalm 119:17-24

Seeing, Listening, and Speaking

Intro.: I can almost remember back to 2nd or 3rd grade when I first learned about my senses.

  1. Did you know that there are five senses.
    1. Smell
    2. Touch
    3. Taste
    4. Hearing
    5. Seeing
    6. There is a sense of awe as I remember the day I put those together – WOW!
  2. I felt the same way as I learned about communication – except it took more time.
    1. For most of us it was our voice – the cry
      1. Feed me
      2. Change me
      3. Hug me
      4. Let me sleep
      5. Turn me over
      6. Yep – I first learned to communicate with crying
    2. I suppose then came a word or two
      1. ma-ma
      2. da-da
      3. NO!
    3. As our muscles developed, we learned to point
      1. It is a wonderful way to communicate
      2. At RIT the deaf community use American Sign Language
      3. And most of us point or invent our own sign language to get our point across
    4. We might use our eyes to communicate
      1. a wink
      2. close eyes
      3. questioning eyes
    5. Eventually we learned to talk and write in complete sentences
      1. please and thank you
      2. communicate ideas
      3. though that can take awhile.
  3. These themes are the same ones that form the core of today's hymn
Open My Eyes That I May See


Trans:During the next few minutes I want to turn our focus to each of the three verses that were originally written for this hymn.

Born in Illinois, Clara Scott attended the first Music Institute held by C.M. Cady in Chicago, Ill., in 1856. By 1859, she was teaching music at the Ladies' Seminary, Lyons, Iowa. She married Henry Clay Scott in 1861, and published in 1882 the Royal Anthem Book, the first volume of choir anthems published by a woman.i

Psalm 119:18 is a prayer for spiritual insight.  It asks God, "Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."  Reading that verse inspired Clara Scott to write the hymn "Open My Eyes."  The opening verse of the hymn asks, "Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me."

But Clara was not satisfied to pray for open eyes.  She also wrote, "Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear." 

And she was not satisfied to ask God to receive blessings.  She also prayed that God would make her a blessing by helping her to speak to others about what God had revealed to her.  She wrote, "Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere." 
Clara understood, and helped countless others to understand, that it is more blessed to give than to receive ––and that we, as Christians, are called to share the good news that we have received.

Clara wrote a number of other hymns, and even published a book entitled, Truth in Song for Lovers of Truth –– but "Open My Eyes" is the hymn for which she is remembered today.
Clara published "Open My Eyes" in 1895.  Two years later, as she was riding in a carriage, her horse was spooked and began running crazily through the streets.  Clara was thrown from the carriage and killed.  Reflecting on that, one of her biographers commented that she never knew how popular her hymn, "Open My Eyes" had become.

But I believe that one of her heavenly blessings will be to know just how many people have been blessed by the hymn that she wrote so late in her life.

In hymnal published in 1997, the editor added two additional verses to those we traditionally sing. When we sing the hymn we will have the opportunity to sing all five verses that are known today – the first three by the originally author, Clara Scott, and the last two added in 1997.ii

T.S. The themes that Clara Scott used in her hymn are found throughout scripture.

  1. We start or journey with Psalm 119:18: Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
    1. There is nothing magical in reading God's word, but it will do nothing if we are not spending time in his word..
    2. God's word will influence our life because we allow it to come within reach of our lives.
    3. Time for a quiz – I know you love my quizzes, they make each of us look at or own lives. I don't want to necessarily know your answers. Those answers are between you and God. And what changes you make after taking the quiz is between you and God. But making the changes that God asks of you, will change your life and how you see your world.
      1. Are you in God's word daily?
      2. Do you have a plan – a chapter a day, ten verses a night, etc.?
      3. Do you take notes – in your Bible, in a journal, or in a separate notebook ?
      4. Do you share some of what you read with at least on other person?

(Ill.) When there is a beautiful sunset, you want to share it with others. If you see something wondrous in the word of God, you will want to share it with others. That's the basis of that last question.

  1. Jesus would often say at the conclusion of a story, “He who has ears, let him hear.“
    1. Closed ears become a metaphor for a lack of understanding:

(Ill.) In the middle of His ministry, Jesus once said, "For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them" (Matthew 13:15).iii

(Ill.) When Jonathan was a four or five years old, he suddenly became hard of hearing. It concerned us as parents and we took him to the doctor. The doctor took out his tool to look at his ears and found something. It seems that he had been stuffing his ears with small pellets of Styrofoam used to fill beanbag chairs.

    1. May we not have our ears so stuffed with the world's input that we stop hearing what God has for us to hear and do.
  1. The Eyes and the Ears receive information – the mouth is different.
    1. While the eyes and the ears are receptive organs, the mouth has the capacity to project.
    2. The mouth may project "cursing and deceit and fraud" (Psalm 10:7),
    3. Or it may be an organ that projects praise, as Psalm 51:15 exhorts us: "O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise."iv

(Appl.) My prayer for each of you, today, is that even as your eyes and ears discover what God wants from you, that your mouth will be able to let others know about the faith that has formed you over the years. May we not live a silent faith, but a faith that others can see – and want for themselves.
Conclusion: Our eyes, our ears, and our mouth – these are the three senses that Clara Scott originally wrote about in 1895.

  1. But by 1997 two additional verses were added.
  2. The first is a prayer that my mind would be open to reading of God's love
  3. The second is a prayer that I may be used by God to serve Him.
  4. As we sing today's hymn, I hope that all five of the prayers that have become this hymn are yours:
    today, tomorrow, and for as long as God needs you to serve Him here.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

James 4:1-12 - Responsive Reading

James 4:1-12
(English Standard Version)

Pastor: What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?

People: Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?

Pastor: You desire and do not have,

People: so you murder.

Pastor: You covet and cannot obtain,

People: so you fight and quarrel.

Pastor: You do not have,

People: because you do not ask.

Pastor: You ask and do not receive,

People: because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Pastor: You adulterous people!

People: Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?

Pastor: Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

People: Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says,

Pastor: “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

People: But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Pastor: Submit yourselves therefore to God.

People: Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Pastor: Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

People: Cleanse your hands, you sinners,

Pastor: and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

People: Be wretched and mourn and weep.

Pastor: Let your laughter be turned to mourning

People: and your joy to gloom.

Pastor: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

People: Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.

Pastor: The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother,

People: speaks evil against the law and judges the law.

Pastor: But if you judge the law,

People: you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

Pastor: There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.

People: But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Saturday, May 03, 2014

James 2:1-26 - A Responsive Reading

Faith and Works

James 2:1-26 (ESV)

A Responsive Reading

Pastor: My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

People: For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Pastor: Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man.

People: Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

Pastor: If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

People: But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

Pastor: For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

People: So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Pastor: What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

People: If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

Pastor: So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

People: But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.”

Pastor: Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

People: You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

Pastor: Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

People: You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

For Whom Jesus Came

For Whom He Came
Intro.: I expect that most of us are familiar with the questions that a good journalist is expected to answer ...

1.     The five 'W's and one 'H':
·         Who is it about?
·         What happened?
·         When did it take place?
·         Where did it take place?
·         Why did it happen?
·         How did they do it?
2.     It might be fun sometime to take a look at the life of Christ with that perspective.
3.     But today, I want to focus only on the first of these questions - “Who?”
4.     Who was it that Jesus would be reaching out to for the next three years? Whose lives would be challenged by Jesus' words and life?

Read: Mark 1:14-39
Trans: These verses set the tone for the entire book.
1.     Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
2.     This is the message John wants his readers to understand – it is the message he wants us to understand.
3.     The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe.”
4.     It was an urgent message for Jesus, it is a message that is urgent for us grasp for ourselves.

T.S. As we move through the book of Mark, we don't want to forget those God seeks to reach out to. Mark 1:14-49 illustrates three of those groups -

       I.            Jesus came for the ill.
                           A.            Too often I look around a church and see people who seem to have it all together. They have answers for everything.
                           B.            Yet, even here at the beginning of Jesus' three years of active ministry, it becomes obvious that He had a heart for those who had pain – whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual.
                           C.            Jesus was there for Peter and his mother-in-law, He was there for the man with leprosy – in fact, Mark tells us He healed many.
                           D.            There seems to be an unwritten rule that only the perfect can be used by God. Yet, over and over again, we see Jesus reach out to those with blemishes – with pains, with hurts and marks, that let the world know that they are definitely no perfect.
                                                     1.            It might be their health that yells out to the world, “There is something wrong with me.”
                                                     2.            It might be their behavior that lets those around know that they are hurting on the inside in ways they cannot put into worlds
                                                     3.            Or it may be their words – either as they describe themselves or as they interact with others – that let the world know the seriousness of the pain they have experienced and still carry with them.

(Ill.) Nicolas Herman was born in what is today Eastern France. He felt God's call at the age of 18. He joined a Carmelite monastery where he spent most of his life serving the church as a cook. Late in life he left the kitchen and spent his time repairing shoes. Most of us do not know Nicolas Herman, but as a Catholic, he chose a different name when he entered the monastery. The name he chose was “Lawrence of the Resurrection.” You may know him better as Brother Lawrence. As best I can tell, he wrote one book in his entire life which goes by the title “The Practice of the Presence of God.” He learned that the most mundane of activities were opportunities to serve God – whether it was mopping floors, peeling potatoes, or praying for others – he was serving God.

Now, why have I spent a brief period of time introducing you to Brother Lawrence – it is because he made a very astute observation that speaks to the role of illness in the life of the believer, “God is often (in some senses) nearer to us, and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health.... He often sends diseases of the body to cure those of the soul. Comfort yourself with the sovereign Physician of both the soul and the body."
             E.            I don't know where you will find yourself this week, but I do know that God will be there waiting for you, ready to stand beside you. He came for those of us who are ill, those of us who are weak, those of us who feel empty. He did not come for the full, he did not come for the strong, he did not come for the well. He came for you and for me.

    II.            Jesus came for those who he is sending
                           A.            In the remaining verses of chapter 1, we see Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John, to follow Him into ministry.
                           B.            Sometimes it is easy to sit back and listen to Bible stories – it may work in young children; but as we age, we must be willing to follow Jesus' example, we must be willing to follow His commands.

(Ill.) Have you ever watched a small boy follow his dad through the snow. He stretches to step where his dad stepped. Not an easy task. His small legs extend as far as they can so his feet can fall in his father’s footprints.

The father, seeing what the son is doing, smiles and begins taking shorter steps, so the son can follow.

It’s a picture of discipleship.

In our faith we follow in someone’s steps. A parent, a teacher, a hero—none of us are the first to walk the trail. All of us have someone we follow.

In our faith we leave footprints to guide others. A child, a friend, a recent convert. None should be left to walk the trail alone. Jesus is the one we are to follow.i

                           C.            But if we are to follow Jesus – there are some prerequisites:
                                                     1.            I need to know the one I will be following – now simply knowing about Jesus, but know Him.
                                                     2.            I need to know what he wants of me – that means being in His word, listening to what he wants from us
                           D.            Am I willing to be prepared to follow?

    III. Jesus came for us all
                           A. Jesus did come for those who are sick
                           B. Jesus did come for those he is sending
                           C. But we must remember, Jesus came for one other group
– He came for the world.
                           D. John 3:16 says it all, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
                            E. In our passage today, we find Jesus preaching in Galilee. And what is He doing, He is preaching the gospel, the good news. Twice in this first chapter of Mark, we find Jesus preaching.
                            F. And the people are amazed – not my word, but that is the word that Mark used. Those who heard Jesus are amazed – he spoke as one with authority.
(Ill.) Authority is one of those words that defines the book of Mark. We will see this word again – nine times it is used, of Jesus, of His teaching, He even used the word of himself. We all live with authority—whether supervisors, professors, parents, police. And depending on how that authority is exercised, we feel either put upon, trapped, used, or we feel secure, free and useful.ii
              G.            Jesus spoke to His world, and to our world, with authority.
                           H.            As we continue our walk through Mark, we must remember that we are studying Jesus – a man who speaks with authority and who has authority.

iRowell, Edward K., ed. 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories: For Preachers, Teachers, and Writers. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008. WORDsearch CROSS e-book. Originally published as three books, Quotes and Idea Starters for Preaching and Teaching (© 1996), Fresh Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (© 1997), and Humor for Preaching and Teaching (© 1996, with coeditor Bonne L. Steffen).
iiLifeGuide Bible Studies – Mark: Follow Me.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Gospel Beginnings

Gospel Beginnings

Intro.: I like musicals – though it is not one of my favorites, many people like “Sound of Music”.

1.     Though not my favorite musical, one of my favorite songs is Do-Re-Me
2.     It begins like this:
let's start at the very beginning
a very good place to start
when you read you begin with abc
when you sing you begin with do re mi
do re mi
the first three notes just happen to be
do re mi do re mi
do re mi fa so la tei
3.     Mark's definition of beginning is somewhat different than ours. Listen to the words of Mark 1:1-13

Read: Mark 1:1-13
Trans: I have long said that the first book of the Bible that most people should read is Mark

1.     Others would say John – but remember
2.     Mark is the shortest book
3.     Mark was the first book written
4.     Mark was written to help the early church remember
5.     And when he starts with the “beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”

T.S. The key events of Mark 1:1-13 set up many of the themes we will see in the rest of the book of Mark.

       I. Key Event #1: The beginning of the Gospel
                           A. Like Genesis and John (which both start with “In the beginning ...”, and like Luke (who tells us he begins his story by understanding and reporting everything from the very beginning), Mark wants to begin at the beginning – the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
                           B. For Mark, the Gospel does not start with the Baptism of Jesus, it does not start with the birth of Christ, it also does not start with Mary or Joseph learning that they are going to serve as the step parents of the Son of God.
                           C. No, for Mark the Gospel has its beginning in the words spoken by two prophets – Malachi living 400 years before Christ's appearance, and Isaiah living 800 years before Christ's beginning his ministry.
                           D. The two prophesies that Mark quotes discuss the messenger that will prepare His world for His arrival – Mark knows something that those living in that 1st century do not.

(Ill.) For some, today, the Sunday after after Easter, is known as “Holy Humor Sunday” or “Laughter Sunday” or “Bright Sunday”. Easter does not seem like a time for laughter or humor (unless we spend time looking at the various pictures of the Easter bunny).

Yet, when we think of the contrast between what the priest's and Pharisee's anger with frustration and what God knew about Jesus' future, I expect he could not help but laugh. Here is the Son of God – they are plotting to kill him, I can imagine their snickering as they see their plans coming together; yet God knows the future. He knows of His own Son's resurrection, He knows of the church's resurrection. There is an irony here – the plans that man has are nearly as important as those God has made. It was a lesson that would be learned by those who plotted – it is a lesson that we need to learn as well. Our plans must always be made knowing that ultimately God is in control.

                            E. The two quotes that Mark uses are just the tip of the iceberg for the OT prophesies that point to Jesus' coming. One author suggests that they number in the hundreds.ii
                            F. The beginning of the Gospel for Mark was the prophesies that told of His coming.
                           G. This is how Mark began Christ's story.

    II. Key Event #2: The presence of John the Baptist
                           A. The fact that Mark quickly moves form discussing the messenger that will announce Christ's coming to discussing John the Baptist makes it clear he sees the connection.
                           B. A number of things make John stand out:
                                        1. He dresses and eats weird – even for the 1st century. His clothing and food were common for the poorest. But certainly, the most respectable members of the 1st century culture would neither dress in camels hair or eat locust or honey.
                                         2. His message could very well have been irritating – as he called people to confess their sin. I mean, he call on his audience to be honest with God. In public, yet. A tough message to a tough crowd.
                                         3. And John was baptizing. Now, baptism was not unknown – in fact it was part of the ceremony that non-Jews had to go through when they converted to Judaism.iii And that is the problem – asking the 1st century Jew to go through a ceremony reserved for the non-Jew would have been offensive.
                                         4. And he attracted a crowd. From Judea (an area about the size of NY) and the city of Jerusalem they came. They came to see the strange man. They heard his call to confess their sins and to be baptised. And they did.

(Appl.) God's word requires that we respond to it. Those who came out hear Jesus did respond. The bigger question that each of us has to offer is this, “Are we willing to respond to God's word?”

 III. Key Event #3: The Baptism of Jesus
                           A. John had said he was coming, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptized you with the Holy Spirit.”
                             B. Mark does not give us a great deal of detail about the baptism itself. But he does tell us God's response:
And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
                           C. I can't help but wonder what it would have been like to be there that day.
John the Baptist draws people to himself. He has told us about one who is coming, we have been waiting for a Messiah - the Christ. And then, after that man, that one over there, is baptized, first there was a dove, and then there was that voice. “This is my beloved Son.” Wow – what a moment. The Son of God, the Messiah, there in front of us.

And then he started walking, walking as if he had to go – he starting walking toward the wilderness. I don't know much of what happened after that – but it was a day not to be forgotten.
                           D. If I had been there that day, I might not know what happened after that baptism – but we do.

IV. Key Event #4: The temptation of Jesus
                           A. The last event that is part of this picture Mark presents of the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the temptation of Christ.
                           B.  Read Mark 1:12-13
                           C. Mark presents the temptation as a natural continuation of Jesus' baptism. We have no details of the conversation Jesus had with Satan during those days in the wilderness.
                           D. Besides Jesus, there were three others out there in the wilderness with Him.
1. There was no doubt that the conflict with Satan was stressful to the extreme – three years later they would fight again. Satan would win that fight – but only for three days.
2. There angels that ministered to Jesus – that got Him through the stressful interaction he was having with Satan
3. And then there were the animals. The scripture says nothing about their role – other than their presence. But can't help but seeing an artist's rendition laid out here before us –
4. It's a picture that helps me to remember what Jesus faced out in that wilderness – at least as Mark explains it.
                            E. Jesus spent 40 days under constant threat – of Satan and of animals.
                            F. We go through times that are difficult for us as well. And Jesus is there. We are not alone – regardless of how difficult life becomes, we are not alone.


iiGot Questions Ministries. Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010.
iiiKeener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.