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.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Passover Guests

     Passover Guests    
Intro.: I don't know if any of you have ever had the privilege of visiting Orange City, Iowa.
1.     Orange City is a quiet community of 6000 people in Northwest, Iowa.
2.     The community is the home of a small Christian college enrolling about 1200 students.
3.     Amazingly, this tiny has 14 churches – that is 5 or 6 more than they had when we lived there 15 years ago.
4.     The thing that be obvious as you walked around town is its Dutch heritage – windmills and tulips can be found throughout the city of Orange City.
5.     But the one thing that puts Orange City on the map is its annual Tulip Festival
6.     This year's festival includes:
a.     A 10K and 5K road race and walk
b.     Amusement rides
c.      A local beauty contest – with a Princess and her court
d.     A parade – a huge parade. Every participant has on a dutch costume – costumes are passed down from generation to generation – twice a day for three days
e.      A puppet show
f.       A demonstration of Dutch dance
g.     A musical presented at night – this year is a presentation of “Fiddler on the Roof” - last performed in 1997. The three hour show is presented on four nights – Wednesday through Saturday
h.     And, most important, this community of 6000 becomes a community of 100,000 for five or six days. In other words, it is a major event.
7.     This is the kind or event that was planned for Passover in Jerusalem as Jesus enters the city on that Sunday.

Read: Matthew 21:1-11
A.   Jerusalem, during the 1st century, had a similar atmosphere during the week of Passover
1.     Jews would take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover
2.     Like the population of Orange City, the population of Jerusalem would grow
3.     So when Jesus entered that town it was already an event, his entry was one more event for a packed town.
B.     B. The attitude of those who saw Jesus echoed that found in Psalm 100

T.S. There were a variety of people that were in Jerusalem that day.

       I.            There were those who doubted Jesus
                           A.            As Jesus walked into Jerusalem that Sunday, he heard the shouts, but there were those who did not believe.
                           B.            Maybe they did not understand yet – for some, they would never understand.
                           C.            It would be like you or I watching a parade.
                           D.            They saw no significance to this man that all the fuss was being made.
                            E.            But there were others. There was treachery afoot.
                            F.            Though there plans had not been finalized, the Pharisees and the priests that would collaborate to arrest Jesus later that week may have already be meeting in secret.
                           G.            Judas was not yet a member of their group – but he was there, right along with the other disciples as Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day.
                           H.            I suspect they would feel strange – the people hailing Jesus as the Messiah, and they were plotting his death.
                               I.            And they had no idea there very plot fit into the very plans that God had for His Son from the beginning of time.
                              J.            Maybe even some of them would be shouting “Hosanna in the highest.” just to seem to be fitting in.

(Appl.) We still have those in our midst today who do not understand. Maybe they want it to make sense, but they have not taken the time to discover what God is really saying. They stand or sit and watch wondering what all the fuss is about. They enjoy the holiday – Though they want to fit in, they still miss its meaning.
                            K.            Just as some of those watched Jesus that first Palm Sunday. Maybe even some of them

       II.            There were those who had heard the stories
                           A.            But there were others in the city that day. In fact it might have been most of those present.
                           B.            They had heard of Jesus. In fact, some of them may have been present for one or more of his miracles – after all he fed 4000 people on one occasion, and 5000 on another.
                           C.            Maybe if you could overhear them speaking in a corner
You should have seen it. I was there – we had been following him for three days – his preaching was wonderful, but I was getting hungry. It was no secret – in fact he told his disciples about it, ““I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”

Those disciples understood – how could they feed us all? How many? Well there were 4000 men plus who knows how many women and children. It would be impossible – they thought so, who was I to disagree.

But not Jesus – he just asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” Seven loaves of bread – that was all they had. My stomach just about fell out – we were going to starve.
But Jesus, that man right there, remained calm. He had us sit down, He gave thanks, and they began to pass out the bread. Somebody handed him some small fish – and he prayed again.

And then it happened – we all got something to eat. No – that is not right, we all had enough to eat. My stomach was full. Not just mine, but everyone's. That man, that Jesus, right there, he fed us all.

And when He was done, they gathered up all the leftovers – seven baskets were filled with broken pieces. I was there, I still don't understand, but I saw it.
                           D.            There were other miracles of course – and other discussions on other street corners – turning water into wine (the first miracle), or the other time, when he fed 5000 or more people. Maybe some had seen a healing, or heard a sermon.
                            E.            Here, entering Jerusalem that day, was an amazing man who had done much to get the people's attention.

 III.            There were those who believed the stories
                           A.            Not everybody that stood and watched Jesus enter Jerusalem was an unbeliever.
                           B.            There were those who believed the stories – who had heard what he had taught, what he had done, who he was.
                           C.            We know that the 11 disciples (I'm excluding Judas Iscariot here) were present. I expect that Jesus' mother was there and Mary Magdalene. And then there was most likely Lazarus and his family – after what Jesus did for them, I expect they wanted to know more about this man from Nazareth.
                           D.            In just a few short weeks in another room there were 120 believers present on the day of Pentecost. And a few days later, after Peter preached his first sermon, 3000 believers were added to the church.
                            E.            There were believers, there were those who were very close to becoming Christians there in Jerusalem that day.
(Appl.) These are the very people we have in our communities, in our churches, and our families. Jesus loved them all – so must we.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lessons From A Shepherd

Intro.: I like photography.

1.      I am not much of a photographer – though occasionally I get a good picture
2.      I am really just a dabbler.
3.      I really wish that there had been cameras during the times that the Bible had been written
4.      I mean, to have just one photograph of Jesus. We would have to be careful not to worship it, but one picture would be nice.
5.      I was reading this weeks Psalm this week and felt like I was looking a series of photographs.
6.      Turn with me to Psalm 23.

Read: Psalm 23
Trans:  Probably no better known Psalm

1.      One of those that we have grown up
2.      Many people's favorite Psalm
3.      Written by a shepherd who was also a King
4.      Written by a man who was know as a “man after God's own heart”
5.      Written by David – the greatest King that the Jews ever had.

T.S. Too often we hear Psalm 23 at funeral services.

1.      Yet the Psalm is not geared toward those dealing with the lose of a loved on
2.      Rather, the Psalm are the words of a man, a King, who had lived through much – who had learned to trust God during all kinds of events during this life. “All the days of my life” he writes.
3.      As we read through the Psalm, we get a series of snapshots of those timpases when David has been blessed by God.
4.      Let's spend the next few minutes looking at four snapshots provided by David into God's presence in his life.

       I.            A snapshot of life in the PASTURE (vv. 1-3)
                            A.  The very pieces of Psalm 23 that remind me of the traditional Easter that we celebrate here in America are the parts that bring us to the pasture.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
 He leads me beside still waters.
 He restores my soul.
 He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

(Ill.) When our ancestors first came to America they found land aplenty – but that land had its problems. It was not the land we see today. It was full of rocks, stones, that made cultivating the land difficult. In fact those rocks, those stones, after being cleared from the land was used to build homes and fences. Though these cobblestones were a major construction material 150 years ago – today there are less than 600 cobblestone homes left in the Fingerlakes region.

                             B. Though the original settlers of our area would have appreciated having good solid material that could be used to build their homes. At the same time they would have understood having a pasture that did not need to be worked.
                             C.  The focus of the shepherd caring for his sheep in the pasture is one of caring – of the shepherd providing everything the sheep needs. The sheep need grass, water, rest, and a shepherd who knows how to care for them.
                            D.  When God’s people follow their Shepherd, they have all that they need and will not lack the necessities of life (Paul understood that. Listen to his words in Phil. 4:19 And my God will fulfill your every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus).
                             E. Sheep will not lie down when they are hungry, nor will they drink from fast-flowing streams. Sometimes the shepherd will temporarily dam up a stream so the sheep can quench their thirst. You can read verse 2 “beside the stilled water.”
                              F.  In heaven, our Shepherd will lead us to fountains of living water (Rev. 7:17).

    II.            A snapshot of life in the VALLEY (v. 4)
                            A. The pasture was a place where the shepherd could give all that the sheep needed.  The valley was a place where all that threatened the sheep could attack.   Except that with the shepherd
                         Even though I walk through the valley
                                                        of the shadow of death,
                         I will fear no evil,
                                                        for you are with me;
                         your rod and your staff,
                                                        they comfort me.
                             B. Sheep, as you probably know, are vulnerable. They do not have many natural defenses – and as much as the shepherd is responsible for providing for their needs, he is also responsible for protecting the sheep under his care.
                             C. The shepherd is responsible for moving his sheep from one pasture to another – but as he does, he may need to lead them through ravines and dark valleys. The shepherd does not leave them in the valley -
                            D. The shepherd not only protects his sheep, he also guides them to where they can will be safe from the dangers they might face.
                             E.  Again, we remember, “The Lord is my shepherd.”

 III.            A snapshot of life in the FOLD (v. 5)

                            A. The sheep could find themselves in the pasture or in a valley.
                             B. But that is not where they are the most comfortable – the sheep fold is that place of comfort
                             C. It was here that the a trough would be filled with food for the night, it was here they could rest safely after spending the day wandering from pasture to pasture.
                            D. The fold would be defined by a wall – with an open gap where the sheep and shepherd could enter the safety of the fold for the night.
                             E. At night the shepherd would sleep in this gap – serving as the door to the sheep fold.

(Ill.) Do you remember Jesus' comment in John 10 – “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”

                             F. Jesus is the door – he is picturing the gap in the sheep fold.
                            G.  The sheep fold was a place of safety – but it was also a place of care.
                            H. A shepherd anoints the heads of his flock with oil for two reasons.

                         1.      First, it is to keep the bugs and ticks out of the ears and eyes of the sheep.
                         2.      Secondly, it is to deflect the blows of bigger sheep who butt heads.

(Appl.) What’s “bugging” you? Are you “ticked off?” Are you irritated? If so, does it manifest itself in you butting your head against other sisters and brothers? 

Whenever we feel bugged or irritated, what we need is a fresh outpouring of the Spirit upon our lives. Throughout Scripture, oil is a symbol, a type, a picture of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Ghost to them that ask?” (see Matthew 7:11). Ask the Lord to anoint your head in a fresh way.

 IV.            A snapshot of life at home (v. 6)
                            A. David gives us one more snapshot - Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
                             B. As the shepherd lay each night at the door of the sheepfold, he looked back over the day and gave thanks that the Lord had blessed them with goodness and mercy.
                             C. As an old man, David looked back over his long life and came to the same conclusion.
                            D.  In spite of his sins and failures, he had been followed by “goodness and mercy,” which is the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 8:28 - “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
                             E. As David looked ahead, he knew he would be in heaven—the Father’s house—forever.
                              F. The things that perplex and disturb us today will all be clear when we get to heaven. We will look back and see “only goodness and mercy.” In the Old Testament, the sheep died for the shepherd; but with Christ, we must remember that the Shepherd died for the sheep—and we shall meet our Shepherd in heaven! “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).