Sunday, February 27, 2005


Intro: If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,400, that carried over no balance from day to day, and allowed you to keep no cash in your account, and every evening canceled whatever part of the amount you had failed to use during the day, what would you do?

  1. Draw out every cent, of course.

  2. Well, you have such a bank, and its name is “Time.” Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it rules off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balances. It allows no overdrafts.

  3. Each day it opens a new account with you. Each night it burns the records of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow. You must live in the present—on today’s deposits.

  4. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success!

  5. Only one life ‘Twill soon be past, Only what is done for the Lord Will last!

Read Mark 12:13-17, 41-44


Tran. It has been two years since I last spoke about stewardship – using what God has given us wisely. Since, as best I understand it, Christ spoke more on the topic of money than any other single topic, it only makes sense that as we look at the life of Christ, we spend at least some time on this topic.


  1. Everything belongs to God

    1. I once had a pastor who spoke about all the “stuff” we own. Most of us own a bunch of “stuff”.

(Appl.) Amazingly, the stuff we own defines who we are. The cars, the computers, the clothes, the food we eat – the stuff we own defines who we are.

    1. But something is wrong here – because I really own nothing.

    2. In reality, God created everything. He controls everything. He owns everything. When I am gone, they still belong to God.

(Appl.) Take a minute to think of your most valued possession. It may be something that has been in your family for years. It may be something that you never let anybody else touch. It may be something you have put into a very safe place. It may be something you put into a very prominent place in your home. Now, let it go. It is not yours. It is God's.

    1. And then remember that God, in his wonderful grace, has allowed you to have it, to enjoy it, to use it.

    2. There is one more point that is important – if God has given us something to use, then he also give us the responsibility to use it wisely. We do not abuse it.

  • We recycle when appropriate

  • We don't waste natural resources

  • We treat all of God's gifts with the utmost respect.

  1. We must be willing to give him everything

(Ill.) Someone once said, “What I gave, I have.
What I spent, I had.
What I kept, I lost.”

    1. Take a minute to look at Mark 12:41-44.

    2. Jesus is sitting in the temple area, watching people make there offerings. The offering box sits in what is called the Women's Court. It is designed for freewill offerings made by the various people who come to worship.

    3. It is the high point of the Jewish year – the time of Passover. More people came to the temple during this week than at any other time of the year.

    4. And the rich – they put in their money. The NIV translate it as “large amounts” of money. But Jesus says nothing. He just sits and watches.

    5. But then someone else approaches the offering box. She obviously is not rich. Mark calls her a “poor widow”.

    6. She does not put much in the box – two small copper coins. They are the smallest known coins from Jesus' era, about what one might be paid for 5 to 6 minutes of work. Jesus turns to His disciples and tells them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.

    7. The rich had been giving out their abundance. She gave out of her livelihood.

(Appl.) The Believer's Bible Commentary makes the “point that we admire and approve what the savior says about the widow – yet we find it difficult to imitate her. She was convinced that it all belonged to the Lord – he was worthy of all she had.”

  1. We must balance our giving

    1. But there is another piece of this – take a look at an earlier part of the chapter – Mark 12:13-17

    2. The Pharisees and the Herodians are out to get Jesus.

(Ill.) Normally these two groups were at odds with each other. The Pharisees wanted a free and independent country – not under the control of the Romans. The Herodians were strong supporters of the Roman government. Yet they found a common ground as they sought to confront Jesus.

    1. The Pharisees and the Herodians were out to trap Jesus.

(Ill.) The Greek word ἀγρεύω is the same word that would be used to describe a snare set by a furrier out to look for small animals.

    1. They begin with a complement: Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don't pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. I suppose a complement is a good way to start. I know that it would be a good way to get my attention. But Jesus is smarter than me – he knew it was a trap.

    2. And then comes the question, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?” It was a trap – if he said “yes” then the Jewish people would be upset with him – how could a traditional Jew support an unholy government. If he said “no”, it would be the Roman government that would find fault with him.

    3. Jesus takes a coin and asks about the image on it – it is Caesar's and then he sets the pattern we are to follow, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's; give to God what is God's.

    4. The answer is the balance – I don't think it applies to only the government, but to all areas of life

(Appl.) Give unto your family, what is your families; give unto God what is God's. Give unto you community, what is your community's; give unto God what is God's.

    1. And that is what we are called on to do – find the balance in all that we have.

Conclusion: Let me suggest four guidelines for finding that balance:

      1. Pray about your giving – don't merely drop in a five dollar bill or a hundred dollar check. Whatever you give must be rooted in prayer.

      2. Give proportionately – when our expenses go up, it is easy to reduce our giving. When our expenses go down or our income up, is it not also right to increase our giving.

      3. Plan your giving – put into your monthly budget,

      4. Give systematically and regularly. If it is part of your budget, then systematic giving becomes easier.

I have a dream – of a church that learns to support itself. A church where dinners and suppers are not required to fund the church, but become a means of reaching out to our community. A church which grows and prospers because its members give and support it.

Not this year, not next year, but in the future. I trust that you will be part of that future.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Second Coming

Intro: The church seems to follow themes.

  1. A while back it was “The Prayer of Jabez”

  2. Then there seems to be a cycle where the church focuses on the ministry of the Holy Spirit – as if it were some newly discovered secret of the Christian Life.

  3. Then, not too many years ago, there were a slew of books focusing on the Grace of God. Now the Grace of God is am important thing, but four or five years ago it appeared that every well-known Christian writer was putting a book on this theme in the book store.

  4. It is important to note that each of these themes is important – but they are important all the time, not just as it seems to cycle through the church.

  5. And there is at least one more theme that seems to come to prominence every so often – the return of Jesus.

Read Mark 13:3-13


Tran. The lessons of Mark 13 are among the earliest references in the NT to the return of Christ. They provide a foundation that the remainder of what Jesus and Paul and the other writers of the NT say about this important topic.

T.S. I find the return of Christ to be a difficult topic to preach.

  1. Not because I do not believe it – I most certainly do.

  2. But because I am not as sure as some of my brothers and sisters in the clergy about what is going to happen as they are.

  3. I have seen books and charts that lay out the plan. Some have included dates – all of which have missed the point. But others are more general and list event after event that, they say, will happen at the end of time.

  4. Maybe in a Sunday School class we might be able to explore all the options and some of the scriptures behind them – but for now, I will focus on what I do know and what is clear in scripture.

We will look at three lessons from Mk 13 that help us understand.

  1. Watch

      1. The conversation begins with Jesus and His disciples leaving the temple area and walking to the west across the Kidron Valley and onto the Mount of Olives.

      2. As they leave the disciples comment on the construction of the temple. The stones making up the temple were said to be “37 feet long, 12 feet high and 18 feet wide”. I'm just about 6 feet high – so the stones that made up the temple were 6X long, 2X high, and 3X as wide as I am tall. It was am impressive building and the disciples knew it.

      3. Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings.” But Jesus begins to focus their attention on what is important – for he reminds them that these buildings will not stand. He does not tell them, but 40 years after Jesus speaks these words, the Romans will all but destroy the temple.

      4. And then Mark begins the longest section in his gospel of teaching by Jesus – what has come to be known as the “Olivet Discourse”.

      5. If I was to find a recurring theme in this passage it would be the need to watch

      6. Four times Jesus tells his listeners to “Watch”

      7. The Greek work is blepto – the word is an important one in the New Testament. It is not a static activity, like sitting in the over stuffed living room chair and watching TV. Rather it is an active word – like the watchman or guard. We are to keep our eyes open, waiting for Jesus' return.

(Appl.) Too often we miss God at work in our lives. God is always there - but we get so busy, we get so involved with life, that we miss him. Yet he is there. Though the focus of this passage is watching for Christ's return, it would make sense for us to be watching for his work in our daily lives as well.

  1. Signs

    1. The events of time would come to an end – but there would be hints as to when that would occur

(Ill.) God does not do much with eternal consequences without letting His people know that it is coming. Amos says, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” He spent a great deal of the OT preparing his people for the coming Messiah. The same is true in the NT as we look to the future.

    1. Some of these events have already occurred. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Others were designed to help us to understand that the events of life will continue to occur until Christ returns – Earthquakes, Famines, Wars and rumors of wars

    2. These events will continue to happen – but at the same time they are precursors of Christ's return

    3. But there are also warnings – false Christs and persecution

(Appl.) Part of what Mark is trying to remind his listeners is that when all is said and done, God is in control. Regardless of how out of control life may look, God is in control. Regardless of how crazy life may seem, God has a plan that is being played out in time leading to eternity.

  1. Imminent

    1. There is one more piece of the puzzle here. Theologians call that third piece “The imminent return of Jesus Christ.”

(Ill.) Joshua's train is invariably late. We do a pretty good job of checking the Amtrak web site to determine how late it will be each time he travels. We get to the station and wait. The trains arrival is imminent – it could happen at any time. But we still have wait and we have to be ready for the train and Joshua's deboarding. We know it is going to happen. We know how its going to happen. But we only have a rough idea when it is going to happen.

    1. When we say that Christ's return is imminent, we merely means that Christ could return at any time.

    2. Look at verse 32 - “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

    3. If the angels do not know when Jesus will return, if the son does not know when he will return, then I am not surprised that neither you or I know when that will be.

Conclusion:All of this is important. All of this may even be of interest. But unless it makes a difference in our daily walk with Christ, I am left, in the words of Paul, being merely a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. It is only fair to ask, “So what?”

  1. Know JesusScripture is clear that you must be a believer to be ready for Christ's return.

  1. KNOW JesusYou will be spending an eternity with him. Take time out of your week to get to know what God expects of a believer. Take time to find out what God expects of you.

  2. Be preparedI don't know when Christ will return. I know that I must be ready to meet my savior. I will want to live each day as if Jesus might return today. And am I willing to commit those parts of my life that I know are not ready to meet Jesus to Him, so He can change them?

    Are you willing to commit those parts of your life that you know are not ready to meet Jesus to Him, so He can change them?

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Intro: There are times I am really am amazed at life around me.

  1. This week I looked out our kitchen window and I saw brightest red cardinal that I had ever seen.

  2. Another time I was driving down 204 – a short freeway spur that runs between 490 and Chili Avenue. There in a small field just off the freeway were a mother and two fawns. If I had not been on the freeway, I would have been tempted to stop and admire the scene for a few minutes.

  3. This week as my wife and I left work, I looked to the East. As I looked at the clouds in the eastern sky, I could almost swear that I saw mountains on the horizon. Amazing, truly amazing.

  4. Today's passage is one of those kind of times. If I had seen it, I would have wanted to pull over and admire the event for just a few minutes. I expect that it would be true for you as well.

Read Mark 9:2-10


T.S. The transfiguration was a remarkable event.

I. The transfiguration was for ordinary people.

      1. I have not reason to think that this day was any different than any other.

      2. Jesus selected three of His disciples to join Him in prayer.

(Ill.) This wasn't the first time he had asked his disciples to pray with Him it had happened on the day that Peter had uttered those insightful words, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” – and it would also happen again on the night when Jesus was betrayed. On that night Jesus asked his disciples to pray with Him, but for whatever reason it was a difficult request, and they could only sleep.

      1. So Jesus chooses Peter, James, and John to accompany him up a high mountain. Twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee are the head waters of the Jordan River which lie along the foothills of Mount Hermon. It was this mountain, which raises 9200 feet above the Mediterranean, that Jesus climbed with Peter, James, and John that morning.

(Appl.) Jesus knew that His ministry took more than just Him. He chose twelve, today he asks three of those twelve to accompany Him. Ministry is never to be done in isolation – it is a team effort. It was a team effort for Jesus – it is still a team effort.

(Ill.) I am not much of a sports fan – but I have occasionally watched a hockey game. Hockey handles penalties in a strange way. When there is a foul, the player who committed the foul is placed into the penalty box for a period of time to be determined by the referee. During the time that the player is in the penalty box, the team is short handed. They are playing with four players, while the team not committing the foul plays with five players. It is at that point that they realize that hockey is a team sport. And so is the church and we cannot afford to play with a missing player. We cannot afford to play without you.

      1. And so Jesus and His three disciples arrive on that high mountain. It is going to be a peaceful, quiet time of prayer. Jesus and the three of them – they are alone.

  1. The transfiguration was about one extraordinary person.

    1. But two things take place that guarantee that this will never again be remembered as an ordinary day.

    2. First, Mark tells us, Jesus was “Transfigured”

(Ill.) The Greek work is “Metamorphis” - his face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzling white. Have you ever seen those commercials for Tide or Cheer. Do you remember that last scene in those commercials where the white sheets are flapping in the wind and there is this little sparkle in the corner. In real life, regardless of how much we wash our clothes, they never get that sparkle. But that day, that time, Jesus and his clothes had that sparkle. Now Jesus' transfiguration is more than clean clothes, but that is the picture I get in my head.

(Appl.) Actually, Jesus' transfiguration was just a precursor of future events. Romans 12:2 uses the same word for the changes that are to be part of our lives - Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. But our transformation does not end there. The time will come our transfiguration will be complete. I Corinthians 15:51-52 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. As believers we are in the midst of our own transformation.

    1. But something else happens – two more men appear on the scene – Moses and Elijah.

(Ill.) When I get to heaven there are a lot of questions I want to ask God. And there are several that were raised by this passage as I studied this week: Questions like Why Moses and Elijah? Why not Noah or Abraham or David? Why were they there? They didn't say anything. How did Peter, James, and John recognize them? Moses had lived 1400 years before. Elijah died 850 years earlier. How could Peter, James, and John recognize them? I have questions.

    1. Now here is where it gets a bit out of hand. Peter is excited. He wants to build three booths or tents to honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.

    2. But from someplace comes a voice, “This is my son, the Beloved, listen to Him.”

(Ill.) When I was in college, I took one course that had absolutely nothing to do with my degree in chemistry or my plans to go to seminary. I took a course in “Theatrical Lighting”. I can imagin the lighting that might be used on this scene. It is the middle of the day. The sun is shining. But as Jesus begins to glow like the sun and his clothes begin to dazzle – the light shifts. It begins to narrow – the focus is now on three men – Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.

And then Peter begins to get excited. And after he makes his request known, God begins to speak. And the light refocuses again – this time it is clear that the focus, the spot light, is on Jesus.

    1. Peter had a lesson to learn. The gospel is about Jesus. It was not about him, it was not about Moses or Elija. It was about Jesus.

(Appl.) It is also a lesson we all need to learn. The gospel is not about us. It is not about our church. It is not about its pastor. Rather, the gospel is about Jesus Christ. And we need to listen to God's voice. We may not have a quiet hill, we may not see Jesus transfigured with Moses and Elijah standing before us. But we do need to hear the voice of the Father, “This is my son, the Beloved, listen to Him.”

  1. The transfiguration had extra-ordinary results

    1. And then suddenly, there is quiet. Jesus and the disciples are left alone on that hill.

    2. And they had to return to the other disciples. They were commanded to say nothing till after Jesus had risen from the grave.

    3. Yet these three men were even now beginning their own transformation. They could never be the same.

    4. And when we meet Jesus – we will never be the same.

Conclusion: Let me conclude by asking a question:

  1. Do you need a transformation?

  2. Do you need God to begin the process of completing a transfiguration in your life?

But another question is also appropriate here.

  1. God may have meant something more to you in the past.

  2. But it has been awhile since you have made sensed that he was an important part of your life.

Whichever set of questions you need to answer, it would seem that this lenten season might be a good time to find that relationship with God that you desire.

Join me in singing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. If you need to feel free to approach the altar.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Intro: I want to try an experiment. I want you all to close your eyes. Close them tight.

  1. While your eyes were closed, did you see the light?
  2. Here it is – bright, clear, distinct.
  3. Yet when your eyes were closed you did not see it.
  4. I would like to suggest that this is a helpful illustration of what our lives were like before we let Jesus Christ take control.
  5. God was there, light was present. Through His church, through His people, He made himself known.
  6. But we had our eyes shut – we refused to see what He was doing.
  7. Just because we did not see Him, did not mean He was not there.
  8. But, as Christians, your eyes are open. You see God in so many ways – you see Him in nature, you see him in the people around you, you have developed a sense of His presence wherever you may be.
  9. And something else happens, as you become more aware of God's presence, you also become more aware of His expectations of you. You have a growing understanding of how your behavior impacts your spiritual life.
  10. Paul had a similar experience. Turn with me to Romans 7:14-25 to see how he responded his own growing knowledge of God's expectations.

Read Romans 7:14-25


Tran. This passages presents us with two approaches toward our growing understanding of God's expectations.

    I. Man's delimma
    II. Man's solution
  1. Man's Dilemma

      1. I don't think Paul was much different from you and me.

      2. At times he hurt, at times he was passionate. I expect that he could enjoy a good joke as well as the next person (a fact that Russ will surely appreciate). And at times he found his behavior and thought out of line with his faith.

      3. For Paul, this would have been particularly difficult. He had a wonderful sense of God's holiness. Here was a God who perfectly loves His creation, a God who knew us better than we know ourselves.

(Ill.) Thomas A. Edison once said, “We do not know one-millionth part of one percent about anything. We do not know what water is. We don’t know what light is. We do not know what electricity is. We do not know what gravity is. We don’t know anything about magnetism. We have a lot of hypotheses, but that is all.” I think Thomas Edison had it right – we only know one millionth part – but he missed the other side of it. What we don't know, God does know. We barely understand ourselves – but God does.

      1. Paul may not know it all, but he does understand that a holy God can have nothing to do with a unholy man.

      2. And then he looks at himself - “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

(Appl.) Paul is not unique. Have you ever asked yourself, “Why did I yell at my wife?”, “Why did I watch that movie – it wasn't very helpful in my Christian life?”, “Why can't I trust God more?” And I bet you can think of other questions that seem to haunt you as you seek to live out your Christian life.

      1. Paul was in conflict. He knew what God expected, he knew what God wanted from him. But there were times in his life when he did just the opposite.

        1. Imagine the emotional turmoil that he felt

        2. He knew the holy God

        3. He knew his life fell short

      2. There are times in each or our lives that we feel very distant from God. That our lives seems out of sync with what God wants. This was what Paul was experiencing.

  1. Man's Solution

    1. It might be pretty sore state of affairs if we stopped there. St. John of the Cross called this state a “Dark Night of the Soul.”

(Ill.) Augustine Baker describes that time as “The soul sees nothing but clouds and darkness. She seeks God, and cannot find the least marks or footsteps of His Presence.”

    1. But Paul ends the chapter with a different tone - “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

    2. Even as he lived in the middle of conflict Paul found hope in Jesus.

    3. There will be times when we find ourselves living contrary to how we know we out to be living. But we too can trust that Jesus Christ will see us through the tough times.

    4. Let me suggest four lessons that Paul give us here

        1. Sin exists – there are right and wrong behaviors
        2. Sin is never to be a desired life style
        3. None the less, as Christians, we will sin
        4. When we do sin, there is forgiveness

(Ill.) Francis Marian was one of the founders of this country. His grandfather came to the America's for religious freedom in 1690. Francis Marian also served in the North Carolina legislature before and after the formation of our country. And he was a believer. Though he wrote 230 years ago, Francis Marian's words still ring true today. “Who can doubt that God created us to be happy, and thereto made us to love one another? It is plainly written as the Gospel. The heart is sometimes so embittered that nothing but Divine love can sweeten it, so enraged that devotion can only becalm it, and so broken down that it takes all the forces of heavenly hope to raise it. In short, the religion of Jesus Christ is the only sure and controlling power over sin.”