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).