Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Here I Am, Lord
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Here I Am, Lord

Intro.: Knock, knock; who's there; Zippy; Zippy who; Zippity doo da, zippity day!1

  1. Knock, knock; who's there; YouGot; YouGot who; You Gotta love my Knock, Knock jokes!2

  2. Knock, knock; who's there; God; God who; God wants you to serve him.

  3. One of the earliest verses that I was introduced to when I was presented with what it means to be a Christian was Rev. 3:20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. (HCSB)

  4. Its a familiar picture – Jesus standing at the garden gate knocking, waiting for someone to open the door.

  5. And the response is the title of today's hymn, “Here I Am, Lord”


Trans: Dan Schutte was not quite ready for the assignment that he was given.

  1. He was a Catholic priest in training at seminary in Berkeley, CA. He had been struggling with the flu, he was tired, and now this.

  2. A friend had come to the door to ask a favor – you know one of those small things that the friend thinks will take just a few minutes, but in reality will take several hours.

  3. It seemed that Dan Schutte's friend had the responsibility of arranging for the ordination service. He needed a new piece of music reminiscent of Isaiah 6 ready for the service in three days.

  4. Of course, there was another side to this – one of Dan's favorite scripture passages was Isaiah 6's description of Isaiah's call to be God's servant and messenger to the people of Israel.

  5. Isaiah had a certain amount of uncertainty when responding to God's call – so did Dan Schutte as he responded to his friend's.

  6. Dan sat in front of blank sheet of music and asked God for the strength to write the new music. His thoughts turned, not only to Isaiah 6, but also to the call of Samuel found in I Samuel 3.

  7. What his friend hoped would be an easy task, Dan worked for two days to complete the work. Dan says, “I was making last minute changes as I walked the piece over to my friend who lived several blocks away.” And he still wondered if the piece was what his friend wanted.

  8. Today, as he looks back to the time he first wrote “Here I Am, Lord”, Dan Schutte says that the story is about God “giving a power to our stumbling words, the simple works of our hands, and making them into something that can be a grace for people, with a power far beyond what we could have imagined or planned.”3

  9. Let's look at the passage that became the foundation for one of our favorite hymns – Here I Am, Lord.

Read: Isaiah 6:1-8

T.S. Isaiah shows us the four steps that needed for us to serve God.

  1. Spiritual Awareness

    1. Today's passage is deeply personal. Much of scripture is written in the third person – he said ..., they did ..., she was .... Rather than telling someone else's story, Isaiah tells his own story.

    2. He is very explicit as to when these events took place. It was the year that King Uzziah died – he died 740 years before Christ was born. He was one of Israel's greatest leaders.

    3. But this story is not about Uzziah – it is about what Isaiah sees – he finds himself in the Lord's temple. It must hae been awesome. There is God sitting high and lifted up. His robe fills the temple. And above him stand angels – Jeremiah calls them seraphim. The angels each have six wings – they cover his feet, they covered his eyes, and they flew – talk about a sight.

    4. But it was where Isaiah had to begin.

(Appl.) You see, Isaiah was no different than any one else. We are not ready for spiritual challenges until we become aware of God's presence.

(Ill.) Before I moved to New York Sandra and I were members of a Christian and Missionary Alliance church. One of the important leaders in the history of that church was a man by the name of A. W. Tozer. Actually, Tozer was born about 200 miles south of Rochester. Tozer once said “The practice of the presence of God” consists not of projecting an imaginary object from within his own mind and then seeking to realize its presence; it is rather to recognize the real presence of the One whom all sound theology declares to be already there.”4

(Appl.)God was there, but God is also here – are you willing to experience His presence?

  1. Spiritual Insight

    1. But it is not enough to be aware of God's presence. Even as Isaiah becomes aware of his being in God's presence, he also becomes aware of what it means to be in God's presence. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

    2. We have talked about it before – how we have no business being in God's presence. He is holy, we are far from being holy. Part of preparing ourselves for service, is realizing that we don't belong there. Isaiah realized it.

(Ill.) Have you ever gone into a restaurant and looked at your silverware? Of course you have. And what do you do if you find that the silverware isn't clean? You get a new knife or fork! In fact if you find too many dirty dishes, you might just be tempted to get up and leave. Now take a minute and consider what it would be like to be that dirty knife. “I just know I am going to be thrown back. I am no good. No one wants a dirty knife.”

    1. You see, I think that is how Isaiah felt when he found himself in front of God. He knew he was not worthy of being there.

  1. Spiritual Preparation

(Ill.) Go back to the dirty silverware just for a second. I suppose there might be another option. You could get our your dish detergent and rewash the silverware. Then you would know that you have a clean utensil.

    1. You see that is exactly what God does. In Isaiah's case a seraphim takes a burning coal and touches Isaiah's lips. The sin was gone. The guilt was gone. Isaiah was clean.

    2. God did the same for us when His son was hung on that cross. He died so that we might be clean. In Christ there is no guilt.

    3. That is what grace is all about. God reaches out and takes us when we are broken and touches us. He makes us whole, he makes us clean.

  1. Spiritual Responsibility

    1. And with that, Isaiah is ready to serve.

    2. When God asks, “Whom shall I send?”, it is Isaiah who replies, “Here I am, send me!”

    3. My prayer is that each of you will be able to experience God presence and to be made whole by what Christ has done on the cross.

    4. My prayer is that today's hymn would become your prayer.

I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry. All who dwell in dark and sin, My hand will save.

I, who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright. Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?

Chorus Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.5



3These details are derived from an essay entitled “The Story of 'Here I Am, Lord'” received as part of a personal correspondence from Dan Schutte on February 19, 2008.

4Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (375). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.


Monday, February 18, 2008

He Touched Me
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He Touched Me

Intro.: Touch is powerful.

  1. Valentines Day, that has just passed, reminds us of the sensitive touch of two people who are in love.

  2. Our news is sadly full of people who use what has come to be called inappropriate touch – whether at home or in schools or on the streets.

  3. Touch is powerful. Not just in a human sense, but from God's perspective as well.

  4. We can go back to the time of the Moses and the Pentateuch (that's the first five books of the Bible). Numbers makes it clear that if an Israelite touches a dead body, that person would be considered unclean for the next seven days.

  5. Or do you remember Jairus. Jairus daughter was dying and he came to Jesus to plead for her healing.

  6. But before Jesus could get involved a woman who had a hemmorage that had not stopped bleeding for five year came up and touched him. “Immediately” the bleeding stopped. And what does Jesus say, “Bless you”, nope. “God god with you,” - nope. Or maybe, “I need a nap” - nope. What does He says? He says, “Who touched me?

  7. When Jesus touches a person's life, they are changed.

  8. Today we will examine the lessons from the hymn “He Touched Me”.


Trans: Bill was an unknown 27 year old high school English teacher in 1963.

  1. An evangelist by the name of Dale Oldham asked him to play the piano at a revival meeting some fifty miles from home. Dale's son, Doug Oldham, would provide the special music for the evening.

  2. The service was memorable with a great many people responding to the invitation that was given at the end of the service.

  3. Dale, Doug, and Bill Gaither discussed on the way home how they had felt God's presence that evening. They talked about how they had felt the hand of God touch them that night.

  4. As the three men separated that evening, Doug said to Bill Gaither, somewhat flippantly, you ought to write a song that said, “He touch me, oh, he touched me.”

  5. The next morning, Bill Gaither did exactly that. By the end of the week, Doug Oldham was singing the song at his father's worship services. Doug recorded the song as well as others including Elvis Presley and the Imperials.

  6. It was the song that launched Bill Gaither's career. Bill Gaither says the song was so successful because it expresses eveyone's testimony when they come to Jesus, “I had no hope, I was done. Then the hand of Jesus touched me.”1


Read: Matthew 8:1-4

  1. The crowd followed Jesus

    1. Jesus had just finished preaching His most famous sermon – The Sermon On The Mount.

    2. And as he comes down from that hilltop, the crowd follows.

    3. It had been an amazing sermon – full of insight, instructive, and challenging.

    4. And the crowd continued to follow Jesus.

(Ill.) I have always been impressed with Jesus' interactions with the crowds. There were times when He would try to get away from the crowds. There were times he chose to minister to the crowds. He did not always respond the way they wanted – or the way we might expect him to.

    1. But you know what, it was not the large crowd that made this event in Jesus' life significant.

  1. The leper approached Jesus

    1. It was the loan man that approached him. This man had leprosy.

(Ill.) Leprosy is a disease for which there is no cure, but that is not highly contagious. William Barclay described what a leper looks like:

The whole appearance of the face is changed, till the man loses his human appearance and looks, as the ancients said, ‘like a lion or a satyr.’ The nodules grow larger and larger. They ulcerate. From them there comes a foul discharge. The eyebrows fall out, the eyes become staring. The voice becomes hoarse and the victim wheezes because of the ulceration of the vocal chords. The hands and feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of the disease is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma, and ultimately death. The sufferer becomes utterly repulsive—both to himself and to others.”

Yet because of the drastic changes it made to the skin, those who have it stand out from those around them. I can imagine that as this man approached Jesus, the crowd backed away. They did not want to be near this man – and yet Jesus does not back away.2

(Appl.) In some ways, this man with his skin condition is representative of all of us. It may not be our skin, it may be our hearts or lungs or nerves or muscles. Or maybe its our behavior or thoughts. Scripture says that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

    1. Certainly, the leper knew that he had no right to be there with Jesus. He was supposed to be isolated from the rest of his culture – but he decided to approach the one man who he believed could do something to change his condition.

    2. The man made his faith clear, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.

    3. The man's faith made him ready to receive Jesus' touch.

(Appl.) Let me ask you a question – where is your faith? Are you ready for Christ to touch you?

  1. Jesus touched the leper

(Ill.) I remember teaching my first Sunday School class while in college. It was a group of fifth and sixth grade kids in an upstairs Sunday School classroom at Central United Methodist Church in Sacramento, CA. I lesson I remember from long ago when we had a lesson on missions. One of the people we studied that quarter was a man by the name of Frank Laubach. Laubach was a man who touched a great many lives as he worked with the illiterate of the world. His motto was “Each one, Teach one” - I can still remember that motto from that class. Laubach touch many lives – but it began each time he reached out and helped one person to read. It began each time he reached out and touched a single life.3

    1. Jesus touched on man. Verse 3 says, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” and man was “immediately ... cured of leprosy.

    2. That man, that day, could not have known today's hymn – but expect that the words that Bill Gaither wrote in 1963 would ring true for him, as it rings true for us

He Touched Me

Shackled by a heavy burden,

'Neath a load of guilt and shame.

Then the Hand of Jesus touched me,

And now I am no longer the same.


He touched me,

Oh, He touched me,

And oh the joy that floods my soul.

Something happened and now I know,

He touched me and made me whole.

Since I met the Blessed Saviour,

Since He cleansed and made me whole,

I will never cease to Praise Him!

I'll shout it while eternity rolls.



1Petersen, W. J. and Petersen A. (2006). The Complete Book of Hymns: Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

2Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

3Personal memory refreshed with details from Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (380). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In The Garden
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In The Garden

Intro.: I thought about beginning with a journey to outer space.

  1. But tossed that out fairly quickly.

  2. I then thought about beginning with a visit to the zoo.

  3. But that was not quite right -

  4. You see, today, we will take a walk In The Garden.

  5. To this point, it is the song that has been asked for the most. There is one other song that has so far been asked for multiple times. But In The Garden is where we will start.


Trans: In 1912, C. Austin Miles was a pharmacist by trade. His personal hobby was as a photographer. But as a believer, his passion was music.

  1. In church he was the song leader and, as such, he occasionally wrote a song. Two of his songs have come to the 21st century church – we have already sung one, A New Name In Glory. The other is one of our beloved songs, In The Garden.

  2. His publisher and friend, Adam Geibel, asked him to write a song for a new hymnal that he was planning to publish. The assigned song, according to Miles, had to be “sympathetic in tone, breathing tenderness in every line; one that would bring hope to the hopeless, rest for the weary, and downy pillows in dying beds.”

  3. Austin knew it was going to be tough. But on that fateful day in 1912 as he sat in a semi-darkened room, he opened his Bible to his favorite chapter – John 20. For him, it was a powerful meeting between Mary Magdalene and her first encounter with the risen Christ

  4. He found himself standing there with Mary – at the Garden of Gethsemane looking into the empty tomb – she saw two angels dressed in white. But then she hears a voice, “Mary”. It was not the voice she expected to hear, but she knew that voice. It was the Teacher, “Rabboni” she cried. She had come face to face to face with the risen Christ.1

  5. The words of today's hymn refer not some random encounter with the Lord in a Garden, but they remind us of the miraculous meeting between Mary and her Lord on that first Easter Sunday so long ago:

I come to the garden alone

While the dew is still on the roses

And the voice I hear falling on my ear

The Son of God discloses.2

  1. What an appropriate hymn to begin our Lenten series.

Read: John 20:1-18

T.S. There are four key points in John 20:1-18.

  1. Mary finds the empty tomb.

    1. Can you imagine the confusion that Mary must have felt that morning? She had gone to the garden tomb to worship her Lord alone. But what she was not prepared for what she found.

    2. The stone was gone – she couldn't look inside, she knew what she would find – an empty tomb.

(Ill.) Charles Spurgeon reminds us that there are three key points in Christ's life on which our faith rests. The first is the incarnation – the birth of Jesus. Though His birth does not save us, without the incarnation there could be no sacrifice. Christ's death on that dark Friday is the sacrifice that saves us. But it is only with the resurrection the next Sunday that allows to proclaim that we serve a living God that not only died for our sins, but also gives eternal life to all who believe. To quote Spurgeon, “Bethlehem, Calvary, and the empty tomb, all alike should stir our souls and draw our hearts out to God in wonder, love, and praise.”3

    1. But we know that from hind sight – Mary found an empty tomb and did not know what to think.

  1. Mary finds the disciples.

    1. Mary does the sensible thing – she goes to Jesus' closest friends – Peter and John

    2. They hear her tell of the empty tomb and take off running for the tomb. John gets there first – but all he finds is the cloth that was used to wrap the body of Jesus. Scripture says that they believed – though they still did not understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead.

    3. There was nothing they could do, something amazing had happened, but all they could do was wait and see.

    4. I find it amazing that the disciples who were closest to Jesus ran from the tomb. They could not handle it. They were willing to look – in fact they went into the tomb when Mary did not. But when they saw that Jesus was really gone, their faith was shaken. Scripture does say, “they believed”, but they did not understand.

(Appl.) God does not always expect us to understand. He does expect us to place our faith in what we know – even if we do not understand. This is where the disciples find themselves that first Easter morning, believing not understanding.

    1. The disciples run, but Mary Magdalene stays behind.

  1. Mary finds the Angels.

    1. Mary was emotional. When the disciples left, she sat down and cried.

(Ill.) My dentist is lucky. Not because of the money he makes off of me, but because he is one of the few people who gets to hear me sing. You see, when I get that shot of Novocaine I could scream, or cry, but I choose to sing. No fancy song, but just a simple melody – but Mary is in no mood to sing. These are real tears.

    1. And while crying, she has two conversations.

    2. The first was with two angels she saw sitting in the tomb. They respond much like you or I might, “Why are you crying?”

    3. Jesus had predicted that His followers would weep. In John 16:20 we are told that Jesus had told His disciples, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.

    4. But those tears would be short lived. Jesus concludes the verse by saying, “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy ... Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

    5. You know, God has given two angels to Mary, but it does not seem to be enough.

    6. There are times when life seems so tough, that it takes more than the angels to get us through.

  1. Mary finds Jesus.

    1. And she hears another voice. “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” At first she thinks it the gardener. The person who is responsible for maintaining the garden and the cemetery.

    2. Where have you laid Him?”

    3. But she recognized the voice – it was the voice of the teacher.

    4. Mary is startled – and she yells out “Rabboni” - “Teacher”

(Ill.) Have you ever met somebody you never expected to see in a place you never expected to see them. It really feels weird. For example, Sandra and I will have breakfast over at our local family restaurant. And when we do, we will find someone there that we don't expect to find – it might be a friend from our old church, or someone we know from some other context. Last week it was one of the clerks from our favorite pizza spot. It feels good to make contact with someone and to be recognized. But it also seems weird. I wonder if that is some of what Mary felt when she recognized Jesus for the first time?

    1. Rabboni”, Teacher. How? Why? I saw you die on the cross last Friday?

    2. And then joy feels me as I realize that He is alive.


I came to the garden alone While the dew is still on the roses And the voice I heard falling on my ear The Son of God discloses.




3AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.