Psalm 16 Utmost confidence in my Safe Place!

Where do you find confidence?  When everything around is in turmoil, when life gets, overwhelmingly, loud and there is a constant demand for your attention where can you find some peace?

Do you have a safe place?   This is a question those who are on the spectrum need to have an answer to.  They need a safe place to regain confidence when melt down is imminent.  A safe place to go when the stims of life have turned an otherwise healthy environment toxic.  But they surely aren’t the only ones who need to know where their safe place is.  Even King David the writer of this Psalm spoke of his safe place.  The place where he turned and found renewed confidence and inner peace to carry on.

This Psalm of David has no specific point in history for us to look up.  No heroic battles won, or near death escapes for the King of Israel.  It is simply a declaration of what David knew to be true.  So, if you have your Bible or app along you might want to turn there and follow along.  Each version has its nuances so follow along in which ever version you prefer.  We’ll look at each verse this morning out of the NIV and the NLT and see if we too have discovered David’s safe place.

Psalm 16 (NLT)

David begins,(1)   Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.”   You and I know that God is a person not a place.  So clearly David isn’t suggesting otherwise here?  Yet repeatedly David has taken refuge in His God.  Psalm 7:1, “O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me…” (NIV).   Psalm 11:1, “In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain” (Psalm 11:1 (NIV).  David’s confidence was clearly in the Lord, he rejected the idea that refuge was to be found elsewhere.

As I wrote that, I suddenly found myself thinking of the refugees out in Summerland that Sylvia and Renee mentioned a while ago.  If you remember, after escaping war-torn Syria, enduring horrendous living conditions, they sought refugee status in Canada.  And like winning the lottery they were granted visas and sponsored by caring Canadians.  Then they traveled to the other side of the earth, looking for a safe place to raise their family. Looking for a refuge.

And as they settled in Summerland it surely looked like safe refuge for them.  But then, as we have often seen as of late; when the vacancy rate of rental properties dips below 1%, and prices of those few remaining rentals increase with demand, these refugees had the house sold from under them.  At the point S&R asked us to pray for them, they had two months to move and it was causing great inner turmoil for them.

They thought they had found refuge in a house but it was sadly temporary.  Yet David clearly expressed much confidence in his Refuge, his safe place.  A confidence that seemed unmoved by circumstances.  David, “(2) …said to the LORD, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.”   David’s Refuge was found in the same place that S&R asked us to pray for those refugees.  In fact, God was the source of everything good in David’s life.  Can we pray for better refuge than that for them?

In verse 3 David thanks God for that which God has blessed him with.  (3) The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”

The Godly ones!  Did you notice that?  Psalm 84:10 says, A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (NLT)

The day I began to write this message Rika went home to her Refuge.  She had lived a long and sometimes difficult life but in the end, there was no doubt how godly she had grown.  Like some versions of your bibles, the word godly and saint were interchangeable.  Rika was a delight to be around even though she was feisty at 97, there was no doubt that Jesus was her Refuge!

David delighted in the saints because of Who their refuge was.  He didn’t worship them, but he sure admired them.  Called them heroes!  They were the people he enjoyed being around the most.

I hear sad things at times out of the mouths of people who call themselves Christians.  Like when they say they prefer the company of the ungodly.  In fact, they’d rather be out with the ungodly than be with the godly at church.   I just shake my head.

How is that possible I wonder?  How is it that a professing Christian finds more in common with the people who find nothing in common with the one whom they profess to be their Refuge?  What does this really say?  Are they truly whom they claim to be?  Or have they never actually met those “godly people” …David’s “true heroes”?

Seriously if you would rather keep the company of the ungodly that says more about you than you think.  I know you will likely come back with “but Jesus hung around with “tax collectors and sinners”, “prostitutes” and shady characters”.  “And He was God in the flesh. If it was good enough for Him it is good enough for me”

But really?  Did he hang out and party, cursing and carrying on like them?  Enjoying what they enjoyed and doing what they did?  Worshipping what they worshipped?   And did those people carry on doing the ungodly things they had always done once they had been with Jesus for a time?    His record is spotless how about yours?

Delitzsch writes, “The expression of his abhorrence attains its climax: even their names… he shuns taking upon his lips” (1:224: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.)

David said, Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods” (Psalm 16:4 (NLT).   Basically, he said, “I’m not with them, I’m with the godly ones.” He taken a stand.  Which doesn’t mean he thought he was perfect like you and me!   Clearly there is a line that you and I ought not cross even as we try to bring the ungodly folks that come into our lives to further a relationship with our Lord.  But it does mean he’s all in.

 “LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine” Psalm 16:5 (NLT) David has things that are dear to him.  He’s not some ascetic monk living in the wilderness.  The truth is God has given that once shepherd boy a kingdom full of things that his heart desired.  Fancy clothes, horses and chariots and clubs and swords….  Gold and silver and precious stones, even land!   “The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!” (Psalm 16:6 (NLT).  He possesses much but it doesn’t possess him.  He doesn’t worry about leaving it to go and do what God is calling him to because he knows that God gave it to him and will keep what he needs for him.

How does he know this?  Well, David gives us a clue in verse 7.   “I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7 (NLT).  That’s a personal relationship with the almighty that David is getting at.  A relationship that he clearly cherishes.  His counselor is the creator of everything and he acknowledges his reliance on the God who guides.

I don’t know about you but I know I have times when my days are hectic and so full that time to think things through just doesn’t happen.  And Like David I have experienced those times when I finally go to sleep and sure enough in the middle of the night the answer suddenly comes.  I try to get up and write it down.  Or I’ll make a note beside my bed on the tablet.  Cause sure enough I’ll forget it by morning.

Now I can ask other Pastors, and talk with smart people, even Google answers when I need to know something but trusting God as your counsellor – is the safest place to go to and the safest to listen to.

David was that confident.  He was so confident in his safe place that he wrote, I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me”
Psalm 16:8 (NLT).   Put your confidence in man, and even the most loyal one will eventually fail you or not be there when you need him.  Trust in technology and you’ll find out quickly when the power fades how poor a safe place that is.  But when you have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, now you’re in your safe zone.   Now your confidence has a resting place.

I think David surprised himself with his declaration in verse 7 because in verse 8 he writes, “No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety”
Psalm 16:9 (NLT).   With God, right beside you, what have you to fear?  Yet I find, as I wander at times, that the assurance the David proclaims doesn’t hit home.  And in those times, I don’t sleep so well.  I may toss and turn all night long…ever been there?  David is doing more than instructing us and giving God praise in these verses.  These things he writes are for instructing his own heart, telling it what the truth is.  Not accepting the counsel of the wicked, or giving into fear and superstition. He reminds himself where His refuge is found and he instructs his heart to go to his Safe place when even death threatens to rob him of his peace.

He thanks God that,God will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave” Psalm 16:10 (NLT).     David didn’t want death to be the end of it all.  And now he knows that the best is yet to come! But at the time he wrote this do you think he understood the resurrection?

I’m aware that the Apostle Peter used these very verses in Acts 2:23-25 as he spoke of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, our Safe Place confirmed according to Paul.  Peter looking back confirms what David spoke in faith, looking ahead.

He was told by the prophet Nathaniel; the account is found in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, that David’s legacy would live on through his children.  But was it more than a spiritual resurrection as they call that?

Nathaniel said to him, “(12) When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, (euphemism for dying or death.  David did know that like his fathers he would die.)  Nathaniel goes on to say, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, (this would be a physical, blood line descendant) and I will establish his kingdom.  (And we know that Solomon, David’s son did carry on as King of Israel).  Nathaniel goes on to say, (13) “He shall build a house for My name,  (Still speaking of Solomon.   Solomon’s Temple is a historical, traceable fact of history…you can read all about it.  It happened as the prophet predicted.) Nathaniel predicted, “He shall build a house for My name,  and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”. (David was told about a throne that will last longer than a man lives.  Forever. One of David’s descendants’, Jesus Christ, His Kingdom would last forever.   Jesus – the son of David, the Son of God whose body never saw decay nor did it stay in the ground!  Because on the tird day He rose from the dead in accordance to the scriptures.  Jesus would literally live forever! )   But wait for it…).     Nathaniel speaking for God goes on to say, (14)  “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, (15)  but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you”
2 Samuel 7:12-15 (NASB).   This king would suffer taking on the sins of the world, being corrected by man’s devices, beaten and hung on a cross to die, but unlike Saul who went to the grave, whose body did decay this son of David would continue to reign under God’s protection and refuge and history confirms this too.  But wait for it… Nathaniel then says, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever’2 Samuel 7:16 (NASB).  Jesus rose bodily from the dead, “did not see decay” ascended to the right hand of God, the place of absolute authority and reigns forever.

So when David said confidently, For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalm 16:10-11 (NLT).  If this was written after Nathaniel’s prophecy, David already understood that he was of the lineage of the coming Messiah and spoke of the joy of being in God’s presence with his son forever.   Is that cool or what!  No wonder he had such confidence!

Romans 8:10-11 says, “(10)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. (11)  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:10-11 (NLT).

Make this your safe place and you can never be shaken!  Amen?

Psalm 6 – Remember – No Pain – No Gain? How Depressing!

“Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you” (Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV).

 

I don’t know how many times I need to hear this lesson but seems that the Lord brings it up again and again.  Remember no pain, no gain!  Perhaps I’m hard of hearing or slow to learn but His Love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out on me.  So why is it that when pain comes I sometimes get so depressed?

And I’m not just talking about those days when I’m feeling lonely or blue.  You ever have those days? Those days come and go for everyone I’m told.  Nor am I talking about those times when I’m grieving the loss of someone close.  Everyone experiences a little depression when grief and loss comes.

No, I’m talking about those dark episodes that linger and seem like they will never end.  Those days where it seems Simon and Garfunkel take control of my thoughts with “hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”, and even when I pray, seems all I hear are “sounds of silence”.  Have you ever been there?

Those times when like David says in this Psalm, I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears” (Psalm 6:6 (NIV).   It’s in those times that we especially need the Soul Care of Scripture and the skillful hand of our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David, to bring us back to truth and emotional health like only He can do.

Now I have no idea where you are at as I’m writing this.  In fact, I don’t even know where I will be emotionally, on the day that this sermon is written for.  But the day I began writing was April 18th and I had been downstairs half the morning with God’s Kitchen talking with many people who were, without a doubt, in desperate need of the Soul Care that comes from hearing and understanding these very Scriptures.  From, “Remembering the days of old; considering the generations long past. Asking your father and … your elders, to explain to you” just how they coped with misery (Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV).

In Psalm 6 David deals head on with those “sounds of silence” and the fears that he has gone past the point of no return with God’s patience.    I know it’s not a cheery feel good start for our Summer in the Psalms, Soul Care but sometimes life’s like that.  And you have to deal with it!  And in those times, knowing how David worked his way through the darkness may bring us the light we need to see that there are better days ahead.

So if you have your Bible’s along let’s go through Psalm 6.

Ok so my sound effects can use a little help.  But I hope you have caught that this is a Psalm of someone deeply in pain and clearly depressed because of it.   Yet David is also genuinely repentant, even sorrowful for what he owns as his fault for the situation he finds himself in.  In fact, he not only owns it he accepts that he had it coming because of his choices.   David is showing integrity.

“This Psalm is commonly known as the first of seven Penitential Psalms… (The other six are Psalms 32, 38, 51, 102:1-7, 130, 143)” (The Treasury of David.)  Each one expressing a genuine time of heartfelt repentance by one who has messed up perhaps Royally messed up again.  We’re not talking oopps I let the f-bomb slip past my lips.  Some of these Psalms were written after dark and major transgressions in the life of the Psalmist.

Take for instance Psalm 51, which was written after David had an affair with Bathsheba and then David ordered her husband to the front lines to be killed.  David did this to cover up his sin because Bathsheba became pregnant as the result of their affair.

Psalm 6 is harder to pin down as to what brought on the need for such sorrowful words.  Some scholars believe that David grew gravely ill and was near death when he cried out:

“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath (Psalm 6:1 (NIV).

Stop for a moment and imagine. What might it look like for the Lord to disciple you in His anger or wrath?  Would it look like this?

 

The finger of God reaching down and suddenly you’re toast!  A pile of ashes with wafers of smoke.  Sometimes, I don’t think we quite understand the extent of the power of His wrath.  Trust me you do not want to get God angry.  But wrath isn’t the verb of the sentence.   Still, maybe your idea is more like this picture?

 

This kind of wrath…when your cup of inequity has reached its limit on high and your sins flow from heaven like burning sulphur, levelling everything in their wake.  A rebuke so strong that even a slight act of rebellion gets swallowed up because of the heinous nature of sin.

Lot’s wife was severely disciplined for looking where she ought not. And to this day the once fertile land of Sodom is uninhabitable.

“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath (Psalm 6:1 (NIV).

God’s anger?  What would David have remembered, or learned from the elders about God’s anger?  He could have thought about the time when the ground open and swallowed 14000 rebellious people and everything they owned…

Numbers 16:31-35 tells us: (31)  … the ground under them split apart (32)  and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. (33)  They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. (34)  At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” (35)  And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense” (Numbers 16:31-35 (NIV).  I don’t suspect David had that event in his mind as he laid on his sick bed.

Maybe your imagination of verse 1 took you more in this picture’s direction? 

David would have heard from his father and been taught by the elders of that time when Miriam was so rebellious. How her rebellion angered the Lord who showed great restrain I might add.  After a strong rebuke from the Lord she suddenly was stricken with leprosy (cf. Numbers 12:3ff).    That sickness was indeed a discipline from the Lord! There was a clear cause and effect.  It was immediately evident to all who were there when it happened.  This wasn’t a sickness that came on over days, months or years.  The moment the Lord finished speaking she went from fair skinned to leprous.

I stress this because a lot of sickness is blamed on God that is clearly organic.   Even some types of depression.   A chemical imbalance can cause the mind to drift into darkness and despair.   The depression may not be spiritual in nature at all.  And if it is simply a chemical imbalance all the casting out of demons and prayers of repentance of sins will do for you is cause more despair and depression, even greater anxiety because God’s seemingly lack of compassion may even seem punitive.  Until the chemical imbalance is rectified, or God chooses to supernaturally rectify it, the darkness of despair will remain.  Good News! God has given some to be Doctors and Chemists and allowed mankind to find out about those chemical imbalances and God has given knowledge of treatments that can radically alleviate the chemical imbalances.  This too has been in answer to prayer! Yes even science can be an answer to prayer!

Which doesn’t negate the fact that sometimes God does rebuke and discipline people, physically, biologically, powerfully at times.  What we can learn from any of these wrathful passages is that when God is rebuking you in His anger or disciplining you in His wrath, you know it.  Miriam had no doubt Who caused her sudden case of leprosy.  It didn’t start as a speck and spread slowly, it came along with a verbal rebuke so the lesson was understood.

If David was sick, as some suggest, he certainly could look back to all he had learnt of God’s anger and wrath and begin to worry and fret that his current situation was about to go from bad to worse. David knew that he wouldn’t stand a chance if God disciplined him in anger or wrath.  So he cried out for mercy.

Remember, no pain no gain.  It wasn’t that David wanted to get away with the sin he was being disciplined for, he just didn’t want God to be angry or wrathful when he was being rebuking David.  And so, David begins this prayer appealing from the knowledge of Who God is, and the understanding of What God could do appealing to His compassion.

(2)  Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. (3)  My soul is in anguish.”

David was hurting deeply.  Physically hurting and in much pain, but also in great mental anguish.

Physical pain wears you down on all levels!  Because you can’t do things you used to do psychologically that may lead you to believe that you are worthless.  Mentally you struggle with those doubts and that self-worth and left unchecked that can spiral into depression.  So, let’s nip that at the bud, shall we?

No more pain!  Yup, that’s the answer, right?  Get rid of all pain.  If David hadn’t felt bones in agony he wouldn’t have had mental anguish and his life would be rosy, right?

Unfortunately, the avoidance of pain usually leads to other issues.  In fact, ask any addict what got them hooked, and if they know themselves at all, they will tell you the pain that lead to addiction.  So get rid of or somehow mask the pain, because pain is bad! Right?

Pain is actually something to thank God for.

leprosy caught

I know, you are likely thinking,  “What is this sicko pastor talking about. Pain is something to thank God for?”  Bear with me for a moment.

Many years ago, as I was beginning my journey with Christ, I read a book called, “The Gift Nobody Wants” by Phillip Yancy and Dr. Paul Brand.  They’ve since changed the title to “The Gift of Pain”.   I guess they wanted people to want to buy a book about something nobody wants.

Dr. Brand spent much of his career helping people with Leprosy.  And he came to the understanding that pain is actually a gift that helps us know when something is wrong or hurting so that we could actually do something about it.  Without pain one gets into much trouble, as Dr. Band learned from those with Leprosy.

In Moloka?i, Hawaii stands a grave to a Saint named Father Damien, one of only a few people in America to be officially Sainted by the Catholic Church.  Father Damien was a compassionate and caring priest who personally cared for the needs of those with Leprosy.  This at very great person risk back in those days I might add.

As you can see from the picture above the risk was genuine.  He eventually noticed, after pouring scalding hot water on himself and not even flinching, that he had contracted the disease and some time later he died from leprosy.

But unlike those with leprosy David was in agony, physical, mental and spiritual agony.  His pain kept him up day and night and the lack of sleep combined with that intense pain caused him great mental anguish.

Those who have suffered like that can tell you that at first you feel that this is temporary and will go away.  But when it doesn’t, it’s hard to keep up hope and not slip down that slippery slope.

Again, this wasn’t the pain of a sore foot throbbing that wakes you up once and while that David’s crying about.  David’s cry “how long Lord, how long?”, tells us that this had knocked him down near the point of death.   In fact he says exactly that in verse 5 as he calls out to God,  “No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave?” (Psalm 6:5 (NIV)

Again, David isn’t being a drama queen here.  And he doesn’t accuse God of being sadistic in delivering the discipline that David felt was just.

Instead David calls upon God’s mercy, Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (Psalm 6:4 (NIV).

David reminded God of what He said about himself as His Glory passed in front of father Moses, “…God proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…” (Ex. 34:6-7).   David had remembered God’s unfailing love in the past.  He remembered what his father and the elders said about their God.  He knew the stories of deliverance as well as those of His wrath.

He knew that when they called upon God, even while in their rebellion, God not only disciplined them but He also delivered them.

David looked back to see what was ahead and he remembered God’s unfailing love.  And you can too!

Because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday today and forever.  His promises are sure.  He is the faithful one so unchanging!  But if you sin…remember, “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…” (Ex. 34:7).  He loves you too much to let you continue to do those things that hurt you.  So, He’ll discipline you appropriately.

Solomon, wrote, (11)  My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, (12)  because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in”(Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV).

This pain had a purpose for David’s life.  And it is still fulfilling its purpose thousands of years later. But, Hebrews 12:11 says, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).   No pain, no gain!

BUT only sicko’s like the pain!  Emotional pain like physical pain maybe necessary and even a gift that can tell us when something is a skew in our relationship with God and or our fellow man.  So even there, no pain, no gain!  But too much pain is simply too much!

David cried out, (6)  I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. (7)  My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes” (Psalm 6:6-7 (NIV).

David was human.  We all have our limits when it comes to pain.  Unless of course we’re leprous or too macho for our own good.  David cried mercy and our Heavenly Father knows when enough is enough.

As kids my older brothers and I liked to watch Stampede Wrestling on Saturdays.  And as brothers do we would occasionally wrestle as we watched.  We had a code word when we could stand it no more.  We would cry, “uncle”.   And most of the time the one with the upper hand would stop.  Not always, … but most of the time.  Sometimes it would be days before the sore muscles and bruises vanished especially when we refused, in our pride to cry, “uncle”.  Eventually I learned when enough was enough, at least while wrestling with my brothers.

David didn’t succumb to the temptation to curse God and die, or even crawl under a rock to die.  Instead, with all that was left in him, he cried out to God for mercy.

Now this Psalm could have ended with his cry.  It could have left us guessing what the outcome was.   But David himself tells us what happened next.  The battle briefly intensified for his mind and then it suddenly was over.

David said,(8) Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. (9)  The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.”

How did David know that the Lord heard his prayer?

I suspect it was the remembrance of past answers where God had delivered him that gave him confidence in this present darkness.  After all the God of his yesterday was still his God in the day of pain.

Like David, we too need to look back to how God was there for us to find hope for our future.  For the God of our past is present with us and will be with us for eternity.  He will never leave us nor forsake us, and we know He disciplines those he loves.

We see at the end of this Psalm that David suddenly had the strength to fight on and the confidence that the outcome would be victorious!

(10)  All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace” (Psalm 6:10 (NIV).   The God of his past gave David hope for his future, once more and again.  He had victory over the darkness.

As that great Hymn writer wrote, “The darkness will turn to the dawning and the dawning to noon day bright! And Christ’s great Kingdom will come on earth, the Kingdom of love and light.” (Lyrics: We’ve a story to tell to the Nations)

summer in the Psalms Soul Care

Let’s Talk about Easter – I Like Dark Chocolate best!

 

What does Easter mean today?  What evidence do we see in our culture that Easter exists? How do we know it’s Easter?  Can you prove it?

Take a walk thru any mall.  As you do you’ll find store after store with various Easter displays.  In some you’ll find large bunnies, or maybe little chicks and Easter eggs. Others have pleasant spring scenes with pastel colours, and of course you’ll find chocolates, lots of chocolates! Chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, chocolate cars, we even chocolate crosses?  I like dark chocolate best but mostly it’s the milk chocolate you find.

Easter apparently has something to do with chocolate!

In the dollar store you find cards that say things like “thinking of you at Easter”. I wonder what they were thinking?  Were they thinking of sending chocolate and sent that card instead?

Frequently there is a “Spring is Here” motif in the cards.  Easter is apparently associated with the coming of Spring?

Oddly enough, I began writing this sermon March 20th…officially spring had sprung with Easter still weeks away… I guess the calendar people need to get together with the card people and figure out when spring really is.   This year we can forgive them because it didn’t look much like spring back in March.

Anyway, if the greeting card displays of most stores are an accurate reflection of the culture and their thoughts about Easter, we would have to say that the Biblical narrative, that which we Christians celebrate, specifically the resurrection of Christ is not considered a very significant part of Easter anymore.   Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs have won “hands down” over Christ, the cross of Calvary even the empty tomb.  I wonder, why is it that the common folk aren’t interested in the true meaning of Easter?

Perhaps it’s just our culture that has lost the significance of the resurrection?  Or could it be that the Christians have lost interest in telling the greatest story ever told?

I wonder, what do Christians in other cultures celebrate Easter morning?

I asked a Kenyan groups on WhatsApp chat what does Easter mean to you?  This group is mostly 20 somethings… so they are the next generation and they are in touch with their culture.

Here’s what a few of them said: “For me its a time that everyone can celebrate what Jesus did for us… In Unison.”  Another wrote, “Its a time to remember the death and the resurrection of God… Or rather to celebrate… Even though I feel like we do that every day”

I like that next one though: “It is a day to share the freedom n liberty plus the happiness Jesus gave us, with those people who have no smile in life”.    That sounds like chocolate time to me!   People always seem to smile when they get something unexpected don’t they?   What could be more unexpected then to know someone who rose from the dead?

So, what do you think does Easter exist?  Is there enough proof to say it does?  I think we’d have to admit yes.  But is there more to Easter than chocolate, family time and greeting card theology?  Is there a truer meaning to this holiday?  We know there is!

So how ought we explain the true meaning of Easter? How can you and I share the good news along with the chocolates and warm fuzzy greetings of Easter?   

Maybe Dr. Bobby Conway can give us a few pointers to help people know the truth about the resurrection so we can confidently share what Easter is about.

You see, the resurrection changes everything or perhaps nothing at all but which is it?   Does it really matter what you believe about this day?

As Dr. Bobby Conway read, apologetics began shortly after the resurrection,  when Paul wrote, (3)  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4)  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (5)  and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (6)  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (7)  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, (8)  and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (NIV).

 

 
So let’s look once again at the real people whose lives were forever altered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But wait, there were so many, who should we focus on today?

I see Peter’s name here why not begin with him.  Peter, the same man who pre-resurrection, denied Christ not once but three times on the night he was betrayed.  And not only did he deny Christ but he even swore an oath that he wasn’t a disciple of Jesus that night.   Peter watched from a distance as they crucified this friend whom only hours before he swore to defend and even die for if need be.  Yet there he lurked in the shadows helplessly witnessing the gruesome death and subsequent burial.  Pre-resurrection, fight to the death, Peter didn’t lift a finger to help and even denied knowing Christ or being His disciple.  And death came for Jesus on that day.

Dr. Conway, can the death of Jesus also prove his resurrection?

 

That death of Jesus sure made Peter feel ashamed of himself!  Yet three days later post resurrection Peter was one of the first to see Jesus alive again!  He had learned the depths of the grace and forgiveness of Christ.  And later, having received such grace, the Scriptures record that Peter would go on to lead the disciples and bring the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles so they could know the grace of Jesus too.

The Bible records an occasion when Peter was praying and he heard a knock at the door.  Their stood people, that pre-resurrection Peter would have never dreamt of going with.  They came to take him to the home of Cornelius, someone pre-resurrection Peter most certainly would not have visited.

 

(Acts 10:30-43:NLT) “(30)  Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. (31)  He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! (32)  Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ (33)  So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.” (34)  Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. (35)  In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. (36)  This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.  

(37)  You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. (38)  And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (39)  “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, (40)  but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, (41)  not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (42)  And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. (43)  He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” Acts 10:30-43 (NLT)

Peter knew forgiveness because he knew the resurrected Christ.  But perhaps we should focus on someone less prominent in some respects than the Apostle Peter.  Someone who could relate more to common people.  Perhaps someone, like Mary Magdeline?

Yes, in Mary Magdeline we find as common a person as there will ever be.  The Scriptures record that “in Galilee {she} had followed Jesus and cared for his needs” (cf. Luke 8:2).  She didn’t do miracles, she hadn’t led millions to the Lord, she was just a good friend of Jesus (cf. Mk 15:41)

And yes, she too stood by as they nailed him to the cross.  It must have been heart wrenching to watch as they nailed her friend to a cross.  Powerless to do anything that would save him.  After all, she was only a woman in a society dominated by men, —what could she do?

So she stood there with another Mary (Jesus mother) at the foot of the cross weeping as the Lord uttered his last words.  She likely heard him say, “It is finished“As he committed his soul unto god” and saw His body grow limp as death settle upon Him.

Sadly, as they took him off the cross, she followed Joseph to the tomb where Christ’s body was laid.

On the morning of the resurrection, Mark’s Gospel records that it was Mary who stood perplexed that someone had stolen the body.  The Scriptures record that, “As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen! He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter,” (16:5)  And so, it was also Mary, obedient Mary, who ran to Simon Peter with the news of the empty tomb.  Yet without fully understanding it’s meaning.

After Peter went to the tomb to see for himself, and left in astonishment, it was Mary who remained outside the empty tomb weeping for the Lord.  What happens next to this common woman was something very uncommon to the culture!

Dr. Conway can you explain the significance of the empty tomb and who found it first?

Not only was Mary the first to find the empty tomb but was also recorded for all of history as the first witness to see the resurrected Christ.  Even if at first she didn’t even recognize him.  She sure did once Jesus spoke her name! (cf. John 20:16)   Mary never forgot that moment as long as she lived!  And she immediately responded to this special encounter by going as instructed by Jesus to tell the disciples that she had seen the Resurrected Lord.

That makes her the first of many eyewitnesses that day.  But there were many more eye witnesses there after right Dr. Conway?

 

Even with so many eye witnesses Paul had to address false teaching that crept up within twenty years concerning Christ’s resurrection.  People were being deceived by prominent men who argued there is no resurrection from the dead.

Paul wrote,  “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” (1Cor. 15:17-21). 

Having seen the risen Lord on the Damascus Road, Paul had no doubts.  He like Mary would never forget His experience with the Risen Lord.  Nor can I even after 30 years of walking with Him.

Yet that hasn’t ended the argument, some continue to believe and argue that Christ was never raised.  And as Paul so elegantly put it, their faith is futile.  But Christ did rise from the dead, it happened just as the eyewitnesses, and countless witnesses since said it did.

What’s more, Christ gave us the Holy Spirit to bear witness to our spirit of the truth of these things.  The truth is without His witness you and I will never believe what is written concerning the resurrection.  But the Holy Spirit combined with eyewitness testimony is far more credible than the best human scholars and researchers, no matter who they are.

For example, a Mohammedan wanted to impress a Christian missionary with what he considered to be the superiority of Islam.  So, he said, “When we go to Mecca, we at least find a coffin, but when you Christians go to Jerusalem, your Mecca, you find nothing but an empty tomb.”

To this the believer replied, “That is just the difference.  Mohammed is dead and in his coffin.  And all other systems of religion and philosophy are in their coffins. But Christ is risen, and all power in heaven and on earth is given to Him!  He is alive forevermore.” (Illy)

 Yes, even the empty tomb testifies of a risen Savior.  It assures us that the work of salvation has been completed, and that there is hope for us beyond the grave.

Just as it assured Peter, who was no longer downhearted.  He had been given new life and another chance to be a true friend.  And he would go on to give his life for his friend.

It assured the disciples too!  They too would go and do marvelous works for the Lord.  Living each day with the assurance of everlasting life.  The women who saw Jesus were no longer mourning! But instead they were praising God, and telling all that He has Risen, and that in Him there is life.

So what about you?  What does Easter mean to you? Easter bunnies, chicks and eggs or the resurrection power of God unto Salvation?   Put your faith in that which has withstood centuries of skeptics even more skeptical then you.

My thanks to Dr. Conway for allowing us to include his videos in today’s service.  I hope you have had some of your questions about the resurrection answered and I would recommend you to go to the OneMinute Apologist website for even more answers to curious questions.    And I pray that you will come to know Jesus Christ more intimately as you continue to seek Him.

Christ has Risen indeed!  Happy Easter Grace!

Today’s lesson brought to you by the letter H –

  Today’s lesson is sponsored by the letter H.   H as in Hosanna?  Home? Health? Heaven? Happy? My grandson would add Hudson!  

In the church calendar this Sunday is the celebration of Palm Sunday.  Loud Hosannas rang out from the joyful crowds welcoming our Lord into Jerusalem.  The Gospel of John records, (12) … the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. (13)  They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13 (NIV)   Yes today’s lesson is sponsored by the letter H but not the word Hosanna!  There is another H word, maybe even two, that came to mind as I looked at the events of that week in our Lord’s life.

No treachery is worse than betrayal by a family member or closely trusted friend. Julius Caesar knew such treachery. Among the conspirators who assassinated the Roman leader on March 15, 44 B.C. was Marcus Junius Brutus. Caesar not only trusted Brutus, he had favoured him as a son.

“According to Roman historians, Caesar first resisted the onslaught of the assassins. But when he saw Brutus among them with his dagger drawn, Caesar ceased to struggle and, pulling the top part of his robe over his face, asked the famous question, “You too, Brutus?” (Today in the Word August 13, 1992).

Many years ago, when I pastored in Pincher Creek we put on an inter-church pageant of sorts.  I got the dubious role of Judas Iscariot.  Lynda even made me a pouch for my 30 pieces of silver!  When it came time for the kiss it really sank in how low can a friend go!

We tend to think of Judas as an unbeliever and a traitor, and thus we place him in a category all by itself, rather than to see Judas as a man not all that different from you or me, which is exactly where the discomfort comes from.

Judas was a man who seemed to be a genuine follower of Jesus, a close trusted friend.  He was a man who had experienced and had been a channel of God’s power displayed.  He was very much like the other disciples, he did not stand out from them, nor was he ever suspected by them.  He even seems to have been somewhat of a leader among those disciples.  They trusted him as a friend trusts a friend.

Judas’ downfall came from a flaw evident earlier in his life, in a secret sin kept within.  He was a man who seems to have loved money too much and Jesus too little.  He was a man who heard Jesus’ teachings first hand, but failed to obey them.   His failure was progressive, taking place over 3 years, and — by means of a sequence of decisions.

Judas was not forced to sin by Satan, but was surely tempted and assisted in his fall.  He was made vulnerable to Satan’s involvement by his sin of greed.  Satan got a “death grip” on Judas by means of his fleshly desires and their dominion in his life.  He did not choose to follow Satan, but he did choose to follow his own desires.  And while it is clear to the reader that Judas became possessed by Satan, we do not know that Judas was ever consciously aware of this.

To put it differently, Judas made choices which resulted in his possession by Satan, but we are never told that he actively sought to be possessed.

From Judas’ twisted point of view his sin was not all that bad.  In fact, he thought what he was doing would help Jesus to claim His throne that very week. And those loud Hosannas, that jubilant entrance into Jerusalem gave Judas the gumption to do what he did.   For Judas the ends would justify the means, or so he thought.

Remember this infamous villain of Passion Week was just a person like you and me!  He was not born a betrayer, but he became one, by a progression of increasingly wrong or sinful choices.

So what was it about that Triumphal entry that gave Judas the gumption to betray his closest friend?

It was an event that would fully proclaim to all the leaders and people of Jerusalem that their Messiah had come. An event that was orchestrated and carried out by Christ himself in fulfilment of Old Testament prophesies.

Here’s another H word.

To us anyway.  Jesus is and was the HERO of that passion filled week.  To the common person Jesus was a “prophet from Nazareth”.  A man who had done many wondrous things.  As the procession began the people gathered around, some out of curiosity no doubt, wanting to perhaps see a new mighty work, or to gaze upon this man who raised Lazarus from the dead.  Such a hero had to be seen if opportunity arose.  And the scriptures record that all of Jerusalem was stirred by this brief appearance of the Messiah.

As I read before, some got so caught up in the excitement that they “took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! “ “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Blessed is the King of Israel!”” “Hosanna to the Son of David”…”Hosanna in the highest!”.  

Had the Spirit of God brought to their remembrance what the prophet David had written a thousand years before?  Ps.118:25  “O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you”.

It seems that the people began shouting cheers for their HERO, and their Saviour.  They were fed up with the Roman occupation and they wanted the promised deliverer, the one whom Zechariah had also prophesied would come.  “See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.  But they wanted him on their terms not on His.  They wanted Him to wipe out their earthly oppressors.  And yes, Christ truly was their Messiah, even his mode of transportation proved that.  The disciples had found that donkey just as Jesus had foretold.  They even had to speak the words Jesus had forewarned them so that the owners didn’t object.  And in fulfilment of the prophets Christ rode before them.

So they proclaimed Him their king…loud Hosannas to ‘the king of the Jews’.  But in their Hearts, it was only if he ruled on their terms!  Hearts! -yes there is another H-word.

We too, at times approach God in this fashion.  We may even utter praises and platitudes of servanthood but when it comes right down to it, Jesus is only our Messiah, our Lord, when it suits us.  The rest of the time he is that historical ‘prophet of Nazareth’ who lived years ago.  Who is Jesus in your Heart? (pause)

The owner of a photographic studio tells the story of a college boy who came in with a framed picture of his girlfriend.  He wanted the picture duplicated.  In removing the photograph from the frame, the studio owner noticed the touching inscription on the back, written by the girlfriend:

“My dearest Tommy: I love you with all my heart.  I love you more and more each day.  I will love you for ever and ever.  I am yours for all eternity.”  It was signed “Dianne” and contained a P.S.  “If we should ever break up, I want this picture back”.

The very next Friday the same people who shouted Hosanna could be found shouting, “Crucify Him!”. Hypocrisy, don’t you agree?

Well how did the disciples react to all these events?  Did they take them to Heart?

Some of the disciples were sent ahead for the donkey as I’ve already mentioned.  Can you imagine their reaction when they went into Bethphage and there was the donkey just as Jesus had said it would be?  And wouldn’t your jaw drop and hit the ground when the challenge came and the answer accepted just as you had been told?

Of course, it happened that way.  They knew it would– they had walked with the Lord and saw all the miracles and healing and other wonders.  So they brought the donkey back to the Lord and they placed their cloaks over it as a saddle.

And then the Scriptures recorded that they stood silently as the rest of parade went on.  HAH!  Hudson would say, that word has two h’s!

They began excitedly telling how all those mighty works had come to pass and they praised God loudly for all they had seen Jesus do.  They hailed him as God’s king and chanted that the effect of His coming was “peace in Heaven” (as Luke records) and glory in the Highest” Praises befitting only the King of Kings –God Himself. (Luke 19:38)

We too are called to give praise to God for what he has done in our lives and to bear witness to what he is doing in the lives of people around us.  The disciple’s reaction was to lead the people of Jerusalem in worship of the King.  Like them we are to proclaim Jesus Christ the Messiah and get all excited about our faith.  But more often then not, we are quietly telling nobody of the greatest thing that ever happened in our lives. Go-figure!

Now, lets look at the reaction of the Pharisees.  The scriptures tell that they too were present in all this hoopla.  But they didn’t join in.  Instead we’re told that they got in a HUFF, they were ‘indignant’.  They stubbornly refused to believe that this man riding on a donkey was the King of Kings.  They told him to rebuke his disciples!  Tell them to stop praising you as king. (cf. John 12:19)

I love Jesus’ comeback to their Huff —He answered them, even if everybody were to stop — the rocks would continue the chorus of praise!

Exasperated, they cried out in another HUFF that “the whole world had gone after Jesus” (John 12:19).  Of course, they didn’t realize that the interest of the crowd was to be a quickly passing thing.  It was Hypocrisy!   They were a fickle bunch who weren’t worshipping Christ.  Sure, they shouted loud Hosannas but in their Hearts this Hero was worse than a thief.

Only a remnant, a chosen few would be true worshippers, believing in Him as God.

Sometimes, we’re even like those Pharisees, aren’t we?  We tell people that if they aren’t worshipping God the way we believe they should, well they shouldn’t worship him at all.  This has been a major stumbling block of the faith since it began.  Long before Palm Sunday.  In fact, it started way back in Genesis with Cain and Able.  Really! Cain murdered Able over his style of worship.  

But on that Palm Sunday, the people worshipped with shouts of praise, perhaps even with hands raised and they certainly were waving palm branches.  They even gave Christ the red-carpet treatment with the cloaks off their backs.

So what was the Hero’s reaction?  At first it appears that Jesus is elated with the response — but it isn’t long lasting.  Christ knew that the “people worshipped him with their lips but their hearts were far from him” (cf. Mark 7:6)   And as he drew near Jerusalem, he wept for them.

They had missed the golden opportunity.  If the people had only received Him as the Messiah, it would have meant peace for them.  But they didn’t recognise that He was the source of peace.  Now it was too late.  They had already determined what they would do with the Son of God.

Remember, those who had been shouting Hosanna on Sunday were by Friday Shouting Crucify Him!   They rejected Him and their Hearts were blinded.  And our Savior looked on and lamented for Jerusalem.

A.W. Griffith Thomas has said, “Let us sit at Christ’s feet until we learn the secret of His tears, and beholding the sins and sorrows of city and countryside, weep over them too”.  Do we weep over the sins of our city, our province and our nation?  When injustice and immorality are condoned by the masses are we moved to our knees in prayer? When we see people rejecting Christ are we moved to tears, knowing that they have taken another step closer to hell?

With tears in His eyes, Christ foretold in detail of the coming destruction of Jerusalem.  “Not one stone “would be left “upon another” (Matthew 24:2).  And in a few years’ history records that Jerusalem was destroyed, just as Christ had said it would be, as he wept for the lost.  He had visited the city with an offer of salvation.  But the people only wanted Him on their terms.

We often celebrate Palm Sunday as a day of worshipping the King.  And rightly so!  It is good to worship our Messiah!  But let’s not forget the anguish that Christ experienced as he saw before Him a nation who rejected salvation and brought upon themselves destruction. The prophecies were fulfilled that had long awaited the Messiah.

Even today, many call themselves Christians but like the people on that Palm Sunday they do so on their own terms.  Christ is the Messiah, The King of Kings. And the Lord of Lords. But He is the Messiah only for those who come to Him on His terms. For those hypocrites, Jesus laid down His life.  It’s Palm Sunday but Good Friday is coming!  Are you ready?

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James 1:1-4 Refining faith God’s way.

Zach was telling me the other day that the first couple of weeks at the Gym are particularly busy this time of year but that quickly trails off as people begin to realize the perseverance it takes to retain never mind grow healthy muscle tone.

Those muscles don’t happen over night.  Sometimes people try to take shortcuts to make that happen but that can often lead to very negative results.

Shortcuts like anabolic steroids taken to make those muscles bulge and produce a temporarily increase in strength.  In the short run, steroids may produce the looks that one hopes for in lieu of the pain of persevering at the gym.  But in the end the folly of taking steroids produces infertility and impotence.Continue reading

Acts 20:7-12 Remember the Christ of Christmas with Commuion

Good Morning, Christmas is less than 20 days away!

Did you know that you and I share a heritage that began almost 2000 years ago?  We likely do it somewhat differently then they did but the principle and practice remains some two thousand years later.  And it will be a part of the church, part of HIStory, until our Saviour returns and we unite with Him in the amazing celebration planned for us by the LORD (cf. Rev. 19:6-9).

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Cameos in HIStory: Acts 4:13-22

Should we actually greet people with Merry Christmas?

I have a confession to make…I love this season.   The whole season of Advent.  I admit it.  Christmas is one of my favourite times of year!  Even with its hustle and bustle and everything else that comes with it.   So I’m probably not the best person to ask.   But my bias is up front.  Merry Christmas!

I think for me Christmas has become even more enjoyable because it’s one of the times in the year that before and after is so evident.

Before and after?  What’s the pastor talking about now?  Before and After? Continue reading

Stuck at a crossroads? Remember the cross.

Lately I’ve been thinking about this verse in Jeremiah: “This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls….” (Jeremiah 6:16)

A couple thoughts immediately come to mind.  God says we will come to a crossroads,  not if we come to a crossroads but most assuredly we will find ourselves at life changing turning points and have to make a decision as to which way to go.  When we do Jeremiah, a Prophet of God, exhorts three things. Continue reading

Acts 3:1-10 You and me making HIStory

Can you think of an event in your life that caused you to believe that God was real?

Few things overwhelm our soul and generate faith like personal encounters with our God.  I’m talking about those times when God acts in and through us that opens our eyes to the reality of the Almighty.  And not just the God-incidences but the times when we deliberately reach out in faith and find the hand of the almighty reaching through us.  That’s when you and me are making HIStory!

Like when we pray and see the results of those prayers instantly manifest.  I don’t know about you but it blows me away every time!  It catches me off guard until I put two and two together and find it can only equal God in our midst.  That’s when you and me are making HIStory.

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You think you’ve done some dumb things…check this guy out: Jonah 1

When I mentioned the book of Jonah what first that comes to mind?

Like many stories from HIStory the book of Jonah causes our creative juices to flow.   Artists throughout the ages have depicted this tiny book in several ways but none more than a whale of a tale.  Sea monsters, sperm whales, and other giant sea creatures are the usual depictions for the book of Jonah.  But frankly I think they may have missed the point.   This book is not about a giant whale!  Though to be sure a whale plays a part in this book.

And this book isn’t about a city named Nineveh, though to be sure that city is in HIStory and not only in this book.  They have found artifacts from it dated back even before 786bc.

slide1To be perfectly honest this book isn’t even about a man named Jonah though once again a man named Jonah does play a predominant role in this book and he may have even written it according to many scholars.  But this book isn’t here today because of Jonah’s story.  His story was included in it because of HIStory.  This book is all about a living relationship with Jesus Christ!  The maker of heaven and earth.

The book teaches us about our freewill and divine sovereignty.   It is about the invitation given by God, even today, to be change agents in HIStory.  Willing change agents or otherwise as we will see. And it tells of the consequences that human choice set in motion.

In this book you can find both divine wrath and amazing grace, the very hallmarks of HIStory, as you follow this man named Jonah who was called by God to bring correction to the inhabitants of Nineveh.   And from that point of view it is an extraordinary missionary story.

Today we’ll look at the first chapter and see Jonah receive merciful correction after making a few wrong choices in life.   If you have your Bible with you turn to Jonah chapter 1.

 

 (1)  The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: (2) “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (3)  But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. (4)  Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. (5)  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. (6)  The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.” (7)  Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. (8)  So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

 (9)  He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (10)  This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.) (11)  The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” (12)  “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (13)  Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. (14)  Then they cried to the LORD, “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.” (15)  Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. (16)  At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him. (17)  But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.  Jonah 1:1-17 (NIV)

This portion of History shows us that with God you are always free to choose.  He has given us autonomy when it comes to making choices.  We human beings are entirely free to make even really dump choices. We can even choose to ignore God Almighty Himself!

In Deuteronomy 30 we read, (19) This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (20)  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)  God has given mankind freewill.  You are truly free to choose as you will.

slide5I mean just look at Jonah!  Here was a prophet of God’s own choosing.

As this book begins Jonah is in the ministry.  He has already been used of God to deliver a powerful and clearly life altering messages that got King Jeroboam to restore the boundaries of Israel (cf. 2 Kings 14:25).   Jonah was living in the limelight because of it.  Things were going good in his ministry.  And then God sent forth this word to Jonah that he had a new assignment to attend to.  A huge assignment!

Jonah was to go and prophesy in a city that historians tell us was more than a half a million people!   A huge city in that time!  Later in Jonah we find out it takes a person 3 days to go across this sprawling city (cf. Jonah 3:3).  So this was a big assignment for the prophet of God’s own choosing!  And Jonah was even to tell them that God was royally ticked off with their behavior as of late.  This is usually a favorite thing for prophets to do, in fact you find this is as you read through the entire Bible.  It’s the usual job of the prophet to bring warnings from God.   So you’d think Jonah would be happy to oblige.   After-all he’s in the ministry.  This wasn’t his first assignment.  He was a prophet of God Most High.  Frankly there was no higher calling known to man.

But verse 3 tells us that instead of embracing the call, Jonah ran away.  He basically said I quit, I’m out of here.  Not only am I not going to Nineveh I’m going in the opposite direction just as fast as I can.  And he seriously tried to do exactly that.

He took his own money and bought himself passage on a freighter heading 2500 miles in the opposite direction.  That would soon prove to be a real waste of money.  And you know what?  Jonah was absolutely free to make that choice!

You see God has really given every human being this thing called freewill.  That just means we have the freedom to choose to ignore even God Almighty.  And if we are perfectly honest with ourselves we’d have to admit that you and I have done this on many occasions for even lessor reasons than Jonah.

So why did Jonah do it? Well, after researching Nineveh, part of me can’t blame Jonah for not wanting to go to there.  He knew Nineveh’s reputation.  Nineveh was known for the cruelty and wickedness that ran rampant in that city.

slide6Nahum, another prophet who actually proclaimed it’s downfall said of Nineveh, (1)  Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! (2)  The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! (3)  Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses–” (Nahum 3:1-3 (NIV).   This was a pagan city where evil knew no bounds.  Killing was done just for sport.

Historians paint graphic images with the idolatry and hideousness of their wickedness running rampant.  slide7Even God Himself said, “its wickedness has come up before me” (2) And …Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, …Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Jonah 4:11 (NIV)

But Jonah was “a Hebrew that worshipped the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land” (10).   That’s what he calls himself in verse 10.  A man who worshipped God.  And it is clear from not only his actions in this passage but his later discourse with God that Jonah thought he was above the likes of those nasty gentiles.  Why should he go and warn them?

Clearly he had little compassion for those whom God had much compassion for.  But this too he was free to choose!  God had bestowed upon mankind freewill.  Jonah was absolutely free to choose to show his prejudice, and his lack of compassion and concern for Nineveh.  Which he promptly did by boarding a boat headed in the opposite direction.

And that’s when things got real interesting right?

Have you ever noticed God doesn’t take no for an answer?  While it is absolutely true that God gives us the freewill to make choices it is also absolutely true, as clearly seen in this passage, that God does not give us the freedom to determine the consequences of our choices.  You are always free to choose but remember He alone determines the consequences of your choice.

You are free to choose to take drugs or abuse alcohol but you are not free to choose the consequences of taking them. That may include marriage breakdown or kidney failure, poverty or homelessness.  You are free to choose to ignore the laws regarding drinking and driving but the consequences of doing so are out of your control.  You are free to tell your employer to take this job and shove it, but the short or long term consequences of doing so are beyond your control.

slide8I think Jonah certainly got to learn some of that lesson in this passage don’t you?   It began with that powerful wind that came up just after they had entered open seas.  This was no ordinary storm.  Those were hardened sailors in that boat.  They had been through storms before but not like this one.  This one caused them to get out their idols and pray like never before.

They were so afraid that they started throwing cargo overboard.  That cargo was their livelihood!  And few things cause man to jettison their livelihood other than a near death experience.  That’s what was unfolding before them and they recognized it and were terrified.

But Jonah, we’re told just went below deck and fell asleep.  His guilty conscience likely had tired him out completely.  Saying no to God has that effect.  While God gives strength and power to those who do His will; “there is no peace …for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).

Jonah is not a type of our Lord as some might call him.  They usually point to the way he slept during the storm, saying he had not a worry in the world.  And they compare that to Jesus who also slept peacefully during the storm.  But this was in no way like our Lord who after a busy day of miracles and healing the sick went out on the water with His disciples to rest.  As they rowed to sea Jesus was found sleeping in the hull of the boat.  And when the raging storm threatened their peace Jesus slept through even that stormy blast.  But that’s where the similarity ends.   Unlike Jonah when Jesus was jarred awake by the frightened disciples Jesus merely rebuked the waves and the storm died.

Even the captain of the boat wanted to know why Jonah was sleeping when they were about to perish.  He ordered Jonah to get up and pray to his God!

Funny, isn’t it, that those who show little faith in daily life often get very prayerful when calamity strikes?  Yet these men, captain included, were about to learn the difference between false gods made of wood and stone and the God of the Hebrews who made the sea and wind.

As the storm raged on those men in desperation cast lots hoping to determine whose fault it was that they were in peril.  And God caused the lots to fall in the right direction.  God would make sure they knew who to blame when the lot fell to Jonah.

The sailors demanded to know what he had done to piss off His God so royally. And it was here that Jonah began to do the right thing.  He confessed his sin before those men.  Admitted that he rebelliously ran away from God’s clear calling.  And then Jonah even told them what they could do to remedy the situation.  Just get rid of him and the trouble will end.

Euthanasia is what we might call it today.   Or maybe death by cop would be a better example?  Jonah said, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” … “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (Jonah 1:12 (NIV)

Seriously?   God would actually do that?    He would actually cause a deadly storm as the consequences of Jonah’s poor albeit free choice?  The consequences of his choices could have hurt or killed everyone on that boat?  Does God really do that?

Absolutely! 

And you know how I know?  Just look what happened next?

At first they tried to spare Jonah by rowing like crazy.  They didn’t want to throw a man into the sea.  But when the storm grew and their self-effort failed their only choice left was to follow what the man of God told them to do or they too would suffer the consequences.

So they prayed some more! But did you notice to whom they prayed this time? (cf. Jonah 1:14)   It wasn’t to their idols.  It was to Jonah’s God.  The God he told them that was in charge of the storm.  And did you notice what they prayed?  They asked for forgiveness for what they were about to do.

slide10“Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm (Jonah 1:15 (NIV).

You should underline that in your Bible.  The raging sea grew calm!  The storm immediately ended the moment they obeyed God.  And what was the immediate effect of calm seas on those sailors?

At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him” (Jonah 1:16 (NIV).

Well, would you look at that!  They actually began their faith journey at that very moment.  And why do you think that you might be asking?  Because their actions showed that there was no doubt in their minds that God, Jonah’s God, was the real deal.   He really does control the storms in life.

But where did that leave Jonah?  Well in the belly of the whale of course.

God had not only chosen the consequences for Jonah’s actions He also provided a way out from what would have been certain death.   Any man tossed overboard into the sea stands little chance of being found alive but God in His mercy provided a new and more humbling mode of transport for Jonah.

There is lots of debate about what this fish was.  The Hebrew basically says “big fish”.  But Sir Francis Fox, was told by a captain and crew of a whaling ship, that a sailor fell overboard and was swallowed by a sperm whale. The sailor was rescued alive, some twenty-four hours later when the whale was captured and cut open. After being mental deranged for two weeks the sailor recovered. (Tenney, pg45)”

So I wouldn’t rule out a whale.  But then again God who instantly calms the seas could have wrapped Jonah in an air bubble and got him safely to dry land.  The fact is a fish of some sort was provided by God.  How it happened is somewhat a mystery.  Why it happened is not a mystery.  As I said at the beginning of today’s lesson, this book is not about a whale, a city called Nineveh not even about Jonah.slide12

This was all about Jesus Christ, God incarnate, sovereign Lord of the universe who later would look back at this event and say,

(29)  … “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. (30)  For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation…The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11:29-32 (NIV).

Jesus spoke not so much about the judgement as about the remedy for man’s sinful choices.  The miraculous provision of God that saw Jesus die, entombed three days and rise again to new life.

 “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:10).

The Bible says, (19) This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (20)  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV) 

Beware of the consequences of your choices today, for it is beyond your control. If God has made it clear to you what you must do, choose to do it His way.

 



Dig deeper into HIStory: Jonah 1:1-17

Discussion Starters:

  1. Do you prefer to be on the giving or receiving end of correction?
  2. Has there ever been a time when you chose not to do what you were told to do?  Why didn’t you?
  3. Has there been a time when being disciplined helped you?

 

READ Jonah 1:1-17 in several versions if available.

 

  1. Who was Jonah and what do we know about him from the OT?  (Jonah 1:1; see also 2 Kings 14:25)
  2. What do we know about Jonah from Jesus? (Matt. 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-32; Matthew 16:4)
  3. Where and what was Nineveh?  (Gen. 10:11; Jonah 3:3, 4:11 )
  4. Why did God tell Jonah to Nineveh? (Jonah 1:2;  Nahum 3:1,7,19; see also Gen 4:10; Gen 6:13; Gen 18:21; Ezr 9:6 Rev. 18:5).  What was their sin? Exodus 20
  5. How did Jonah answer God’s call at first? (Jonah 1:3,10)  Why? (Jonah 4:2; Matthew 16:4; Heb. 3:15; James 1:22; Psalm 119:27) see also (Exodus 4:13; 1 Ki 19:3; Jer. 20:7-9; Eze. 3:14;  Luke 9:62).
  6. What did God do about it?  (Jonah 1:4) How do we know it was God? (12b,15b) (see also Exodus 10:13,19; Exodus 14:21; 15:10; Num. 11:31; Psalm 107:24-31; Psalm 135:7; Amos 4:13; Matthew 8:24-27)
  7. What affect did that have on the people in the boat? (Jonah 1:5,7-8 see also 1 Ki 18:26; Isa 44:17-20; Jer. 2:28)  Where was Jonah as the storm raged? (Jonah 1:5b,6 ) Was Jonah like Jesus in Mark 4:38; Luke 8:23?
  8. What right thing did Jonah do in verses 9 and 12?  (Luke 13:3; Proverbs 28:13; Rev. 2:5; 1 Jn. 1:9, see also 2 Sam. 24:17; John 11:50)
  9. What did the sailors do? (Jonah 1:13)   Did it work?  So then what did they do? (14-15)
  10. What was the immediate effect of throwing Jonah overboard? (Jonah 1:15b, 16a)
  11. What happened to Jonah (Jonah 1:17)  (see also Hab 3:2)
  12. How is being swallowed by a big fish God’s grace? (Rev. 3:19; Joel 2:13; Matthew 3:2; Romans 6:23; Romans 10:9-10)
  13. In what ways has God pursued you?
  14. Who can you share with this week what you know Jesus has done for you?

Come Find Grace in the Heart of Penticton

Are you looking for a loving community to be a part of?  Come find Grace in the Heart of Penticton!

We are a close knit community of Christ followers who are passionate about sharing the gospel in Word and deed.  We are a caring and compassionate people who live out the good news wherever God places us both in the marketplace and throughout the Okanagan.   We’re not a mega church in the traditional sense of that word though through our ministries we have helped thousands of people come to know and follow Jesus Christ around the globe.  Because of this we are known as the small church that could.    Continue reading

Psalm 1:1-6 Finding good direction for your life.

Every trail leads somewhere but do all those paths end up in the same place? And if not, just what happens when you find you’ve ended up on the wrong path?  What do you use to reset your direction?    Some people just follow the crowd, others set their own direction by intuition, while still others seem to have some sort of spiritual director guiding their way.  What about you?  We all need some direction at times.  It doesn’t matter if everything is going good or if the path we are on is rocky and we’re carrying a load.  But just where can we find good direction that brings us to a successful conclusion?

Continue reading

Luke 19:1-10 It’s your move, what are you going to do? James Mugwe

Our Thanksgiving address was given by James.  Jimmy shared with us how the story of Zacchaeus spoke to him even as a child growing up.  Join us as he unpacks this passage in HIStory.



 

Dig deeper into HIStory:  Luke 19:1-10

 

  1. How has someone talking badly about you affected you and what others say about you?

 

  1. Who are the people least respected in your culture or community? Why is that?

 

Read today’s passage in more than one verse of the Bible.  (Luke 19:1-10)

 

  1. Where did this passage take place? What do we know Biblically about that place?  (Luke 19:1; Josh 2:1; Josh 6:26; 1 Ki 16:34)

 

  1. Who are the characters involved? (Luke 19:1, 2, 3)

 

  1. How is Zacchaeus portrayed by Luke, and the crowds? (Luke 19:2, 19:7)

 

  1. What issues did Zacchaeus have with the crowds? How did he over come them? (Luke 19:2-4; 7-8)

 

  1. How did Jesus respond to Zacchaeus? (Luke 19:5, 9-10)

 

  1. How did Zacchaeus respond to Jesus’ self invitation? (Luke 19:6, 8)

 

  1. What effect does your reputation have on your life? (Daniel 6:3-5; Ezekiel 20:9-10; Prov. 22:1; Acts 10:1-4; Acts 24:16; 1 Thes 4:1; 1 Tim 3:7; 2 Corinthians 10:17-18; Matthew 6:1-8)

 

  1. When sharing the gospel how much attention should be placed on a person’s reputation? (Luke 19:10; Luke 5:31-32; Luke 15:4-7, 32; Matthew 9:13; Rom. 5:6)

 

  1. What does the response of Zacchaeus to Jesus show us about the power to change lives? (Luke 19:9; Heb 7:25; 1 Peter 2:10)

 

Luke 18:18-30 What must I do to inherit eternal life?

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  This is actually a question that only the wise seem to ask these days… at least here in N. America.  With our fast paced, get it while you can society, few people consider the ramifications of eternity until they get sick or have a near death experience or are about to be euthanized.   Then all of a sudden the realization that no one lives forever may cause some great anxiety and for others they begin to search out “what’s next”.  What happens when we die? Continue reading

Luke 18:9-14 Righteous enough?

What does it take to be good enough to go to heaven? 

What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 18:18)  The question has been around a long, long, time.  Is there an entrance exam one must pass in this life before entering heaven or the fires of hell if one fails?

Is it saying the right prayers or helping enough people that are not as well off as you? Perhaps it’s a sliding scale that God uses and you just have to get past a certain point?  After all there are 10 commandments maybe keeping 6 out of 10 will be good enough to be admitted to heaven? 

Maybe if you are better than those terrorists that we are constantly hearing about … would that give you a passing grade?  That doesn’t seem too high to reach.  Better than a blood thirsty terrorist?  Although, come to think of it, the suicide bombers actually believe their ultimate sacrifice will usher them into paradise.  

slide2Could they possibly be right?  After all Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  And clearly they believe what they are doing is right….don’t they?  They believe it makes them righteous enough to merit a spot in paradise.  Is that what it takes to pass heaven’s entrance exam?  I sure don’t think so but does it actually disqualify them from entering?

Maybe you need to sell all your possessions and give to the poor?   Isn’t that what Jesus said to one rich young man?   He was lacking just one thing having kept the law all his life (cf. Luke 18:21-22). Just one thing! Ouch! 

When talking with people, who clearly don’t know Jesus, I often hear stories of the good works they have been doing.  I don’t elicit the stories they just seem to feel the need to volunteer that information.  It can be very uplifting at times.  Some have given much time, talent and treasure to help others in need.  Often they are very nice and what you and I would likely call good people.  Some have even traveled to foreign countries to help the poor.  Their stories are often fascinating but sometimes I wonder why they have done what they’ve done.   What was their motivation? 

I know Christians are supposed to be doing such things but as I said it was clear from our conversation that these were not yet believers.  So what compels them to do such good works?

slide4Sometimes they would throw in the karma key.  They wanted good karma in their lives so they did good things and they hoped they would receive good karma in return according to the Buddhist teachings that have even crept into Christian circles.

This picture is of a prayer mantra wheel.  “According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition based on the lineage texts regarding prayer wheels, spinning such a wheel will have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_wheel)   Much the same effect!  And just what effect would that be?

Could it be the effect Jesus spoke about when He said, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Mat. 6:7).  

I think Jesus ran into a lot of good folks who had no idea what righteousness is nor where it comes from nor how critical it is to entering the Kingdom of Heaven.  

Take for example today’s passage in HIStory Luke 18:9-14 (NIV).  Jesus took time to explain to people the difference between righteous prayer and arrogance before God.  He taught how some prayers receive righteousness from God and that other prayers receive about the same effect as a Buddhist Mantra wheel.  So let’s look at the truth about what makes us good enough to get to heaven. 

 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

slide6 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else…” (Luke 18:9).   Wow! Luke, our author of record, wasn’t pulling any punches with that opening sentence was he? Some who were confident of their own righteousness!  And just in case the reader wasn’t sure who Luke was writing about the Lord Himself made it perfectly clear.  It was those Pharisees once again that had sparked this teachable moment. This was yet another verbal scrimmage between our LORD and those who thought that because of their training and lifestyle they were in the right. 

To their credit the Pharisees did know the word of God and the laws very well.  Extremely well! There was no denying that.  If knowing can be equated to righteousness than they should have reached the passing grade with ease.   And this particular Pharisee here that Jesus talked about seemed like a pretty good guy if only in his own eyes.   

I don’t think he was speaking falsely when he said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector” (11).   

I believe his self-examination there was pretty bang on.  Nor do I think Jesus is saying this guy is lying or delusional as he speaks out to God.  Clearly he wasn’t like the aforementioned people.  God was likely nodding in agreement with him as he heard this come out of the Pharisee’s mouth.  He certainly was nothing like that tax collector!  But did that make him more righteous?  Should it have given him “confidence in his own righteousness”? 

Beyond knowing the word of God this Pharisee didn’t just talk a good game he even practiced what he believed the Law required of him and went beyond.   “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  (11-12).     

The Law actually only required one fast on the Day of Atonement but hey this guy was super spiritual. Admirable quality don’t you agree?  Not only did he fast and pray he put his money where his mouth was. And he was more generous than many of his brethren. 

A tenth of everything if you can believe it! God certainly loves a cheerful giver! (cf.2 Cor. 9:7)   But somehow according to Jesus even with this sort of spiritual commitment the Pharisee still had missed the mark and not just a little.

Hearing of his zeal for the law and his righteous acts, and the fact that he missed the mark according to Jesus are you still “confident of your own righteousness?” 

How many of you are “righteous enough” in God’s sight? 

I should actually see all hands go up here.  Well maybe not all hands.  All those who have put their trust in Christ that is.  But why do I say that?  More importantly how can I prove such an audacious statement?  Well just what does the bible say about us being “righteous enough”?  Let’s look at just a few verses..there are more than 80 according to this site: https://dailyverses.net/righteousness but let’s just look at a few of them.

John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One(1 John 2:1 (NIV).  Apparently there was one that stood righteous before God, Jesus Christ.

 John goes on to say, “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him” 1 John 2:29 (NIV) 

Peter wrote, “Jesus committed no sin, (Part of what it takes to be righteous and to inherit the kingdom of God. )  and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 1 Peter 2:22 (The other part of what it takes to be righteous.  If you ever told a lie, no matter how small it was, you failed.  This alone proves you are not righteous enough ! But  Peter says, Jesus passed on both accounts with flying colours!  He was righteous enough!  ) (NIV) And Peter goes on to say, “…Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God…” (1 Peter 3:18 (NIV).  He was THE righteous not just a righteous man.  He is the standard that God has set for righteousness.  Unless your righteousness measures up to his you will be found wanting when the day comes to enter the kingdom of God. In fact Jesus said, For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:20 (NIV).  And the only one to surpass their righteousness was the one who set that standard.
But wait Peter also said there that the life Christ lived and died can bring you to inherit the kingdom of heaven. 

So does your righteousness surpass that of the Pharisees?   How do you measure up to Jesus?  Are you still confident in your own righteousness?

Isaiah wrote about the rest of us when he penned, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:6 (NIV).  Our best righteousness, the very best we can do, which is still a good thing to strive for, according to Isaiah is still not good enough!  It doesn’t measure up to God’s standard.

That’s why, “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption(1 Corinthians 1:28-30 (NIV).

 “For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Jesus Christ) the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19 (NIV).  Made righteous!  And not just a little, righteous enough!  

“Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes (Romans 10:4 (NIV).   That’s what another Pharisee wrote!  His name was Paul.  He was a Pharisee of Pharisees according to the Bible (cf. Phil. 3:5).  He also wrote, “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV).

This is the Gospel!  The good news that the tax collector was praying for as he repented and beat his chest in humility before God.  He didn’t need some self righteous Pharisee harping on him about how bad he was.   He already knew that!  He needed someone to show him where to find forgiveness and true righteousness.   

And sometimes you and I are too much like that Pharisee when non-believers are in our midst aren’t we?  Let’s bash them over the head with the law rather than helping them to find the same grace that brought us righteousness. 

Jesus said, “I tell you that this tax collector, rather than the Pharisee, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14 (NIV). 

Paul wrote:  “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, …” (Romans 12:3).   Don’t just look at the good things but everything you’ve done.   That’s sober judgment!  We need to take stock accurately before we approach the throne of grace.  Don’t embellish because God keeps very accurate records and you would only be fooling yourself. 

slide15And secondly this passage of Scripture teaches us not to think we actually know about those to whom we choose to compare ourselves.  The truth is you hardly know what evil hides within you never mind your neighbor.  Who knows it may be far worse than that of a tax collector!   

I guess that’s why Jesus said “first remove the log in your own eye”(cf. Matt. 7:3) and then you will likely be in a position to think soberly.    Perhaps you’ll even see the grace that God gave you in your sinful state and be less likely to harshly judge your neighbor.   The log Jesus was talking about is pride.  And trust me it ain’t no sliver!  And it surely was blocking the Pharisee from seeing his own sorry state never mind the tax collector’s.   Even if his prayers had been honest and truthful clearly his attitude sucked!

The Pharisee wasn’t talking with God he was showing off for man.  And that sort of pride and arrogance is something that God’s detests and therefore He doesn’t listen to those sort of prayers.    God has made it clear in this passage and throughout the Bible what sort of person gets heard on high. 

The Bible says, “… to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word (Isaiah 66:2).  

 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17). 

“… rend your heart and not your garments ” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness and relenting of evil” (Joel 2:13).slide18

 Isaiah 58:9-10 (NIV) says, “Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,  and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday”. 

God assures us that, “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV).  

Jesus said, the tax collector went home justified that day.  As for the Pharisee, he was confident in his own righteousness.  He likely didn’t think he needed the LORD’s. 

And so again I ask you are you good enough to merit heavenAre you righteous enough to pass God’s standard for getting in? 

If you have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour than you can have confidence in His righteousness not your own. 

And as the writer to Hebrews put is:

“…we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV).

AMEN?  



Dig deeper into this Passage:  Luke 18:9-14

 

  1. How do you feel when you are around people who are very knowledgeable about the Bible?
  2. How do you feel when you are around people who constantly brag about their accomplishments?
  3. Have you been good enough to get to Heaven? What does it take?
  4. Read Luke 18:9-14 in several versions if possible.
  5. Who are the three main characters in this passage?
  6. What does Luke tell us is at issue in verse 9?
  7. Is the confidence expressed here a good thing or a bad thing? (Luke 18:9)
  8. What is righteousness?
  9. Who are the two men described in this passage? What do we know about such people?  (P- Mat 9:14; Mat 23:15; Luke 11:39; Luke 18:12, Acts 23:6-8; Acts 26:4, 5). (TC- Mark 2:15-17; Matthew 9:7-11; 11:18-20; Matthew 18:17; Luke 3:12-14; Luke 7:28-31; Luke 15:1-7)
  10. How would the first hearers of this parable have understood the Pharisee and the Tax collector?
  11. What has Luke observed already about Pharisees: (Luke 5:17; 6:2, 7; 7:39; 11:37-54; 15:2; 16:14). Were Pharisees righteous?
  12. How righteous do we need to be to inherit the Kingdom of God or go to heaven? (Matthew 5:20) 
  13. What does Jesus say about both prayers that were spoken that day? (Luke 18:14). Why?
  14. Who are the equivalent to Pharisees and Tax Collectors today?  
  15. How can you become righteous enough to go to Heaven? (Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 56:1; Romans 1:17; Isaiah 54:17; Romans 4:13; Romans 9:30; Romans 10:6; Romans 3:21-22;  1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Romans 10:4; Romans 5:17; Romans 4:5; Philippians 3:9)

2 Kings 4:1-7 – Using the little will do more than I can imagine!

Romans 8:32 says,  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” 

Slide1I went to the golden arches the other day and got a coffee.  How much change did I receive from my twonie?  Notta! That twonie is history!

That got me thinking, when was the last time you sat down and considered how much it costs you to live each day?  Or at least how much you spend each day?  It is a good exercise for everyone not just Christians.  But for Christians the exercise will also show you what you value most in life.  For where your treasure is spent there your heart is also!

But what if you were given just $2 per day to live on.  Just $2 bucks do you think you could?Continue reading

Luke 17:11-19 Healing Graces

Slide1Lately I’ve been counting my blessings as I’ve been privileged to see God answer prayer in so many ways.  Those of you who are connected by Facebook to Sylvia’s page have seen several testimonies of God’s wonderful grace.  The one from Kamloops of the young lady who clearly doesn’t know Jesus but was prayed for anyways sticks out in my mind as I write this.  She speaks of her chronic pain that has been with her for some time now.  A man in the video offers to pray for her knee and she agrees.Continue reading

Luke 10:38-42 Just do something?

As I sat down to write this morning’s sermon I thought of at least ten things that I could have been doing in that time. Each thing calling and demanding my time away from sitting and waiting upon the Lord.  And each of them seemed very good…well most of them, at one point the thought of going and jumping in the lake and forgetting about everything else that needed to be done passed through my mind.  But all the other things were legitimate things that needed to be done.

Phone calls to return.  Emails to be written. Website computer issues to be worked through.  I thought to myself…I can do these things.  New changes in the society’s act that necessitate changes in our bylaws and guidelines.  With help I can do that too.  And then there were people wanting just a few minutes to chat.  Nothing wrong with that.  I like to do that.  People needing prayer…yup I like to do that to!

A short chat turns into a one-hour or so counselling session.  Yup did that too.  Then I notice a few things that need to be done around the church.  So there too I look at it and say I think I can do that.  And soon it’s noon, then 1pm and I haven’t spent the time sitting with the Lord that I had planned for that day.  But I did do something.  Truth is I like to do.

Slide1And you know how the old saying goes… “Don’t just sit there do something!”  How many of you have heard that one?

Is it always good advice?  “Just do something!”?

Some might say I was being Spirit lead to do the things that mattered most to GOD.  Frankly I’ve used that phrase and that excuse many of times to rationalize my constant need to be doing something.  And doing something is always better than not doing isn’t it?  Or is it?

Turn in your Bible with me to Luke 10:38-42.  And let’s see what the Master had to say about just doing something!

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.   She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.   But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”   “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,   but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42:NIV)

Slide3
This passage bugs me.  It grinds at my doing mentality like iron on the sharping stone.  I feel Martha’s pain!  When there are things needing to be done, “pitter-patter let’s get at her!”  The job isn’t going to do itself.

I like do.  I’m not so good with sit and listen.  But I’ve found ways to do that too!

Clearly Martha was planning a big event to invite people to come be with Jesus as He and the disciples were on their way to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. This was their stop over before reaching the hallowed grounds.   Though she couldn’t have known it, this would be the last time Martha would prepare and serve a meal to Jesus.  Not that it would have made a difference to Martha for she would have fussed over Him and put on the spread anyway because that was the way she was wired.

We all know that every event, small or large, takes a Martha if people are going to be fed.  Thank God for Marthas!

Even if only the twelve disciples and Jesus showed up there would be much to do, food to fetch, meals to make, cleaning the house and the outhouse.  Lots and lots of preparations.  Martha’s favourite word is do!  She is a doer if there ever was one.

I’m so thankful we have plenty of Martha’s in our midst here at Grace because the church would likely come to a screeching halt without them.

Slide4Clearly from our passage Martha enjoys showing proper hospitality.  She wants things to be just so.  And so she was busy preparing for her guests. This was not a bad thing.  Clearly her gift was hospitality and she utilized well.


So well in fact that Luke says she was, distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (40).

Did you notice that word “distracted” in there?  It actually only appears once in the Greek, right there in verse 40.  So I can’t take you all over the scriptures to see how it is used.  But Greek scholars tell us the meaning is still very clear.

Martha was anxious, running here and there, her mind was not focused on Jesus it was focused on preparations.  She was “a bit scatter brained” to use the modern vernacular.

Remember, it’s not that the job she was doing didn’t need to be done, it did.  They needed to eat, but perhaps a less elaborate single course meal would have sufficed?  It was a matter of priorities.

To Martha more elaborate obviously meant more than keeping it simple so she could spend more time with Jesus.  Either way the meal would eventually get done.

The issue was it just wasn’t time for doing no matter how anxious Martha was. It was time for being with Jesus.  She was distracted by doing.

Unfortunately, she allowed all those things that had to be done to nag at her mercilessly.  She couldn’t even pause to worship Jesus if the lamb stew wasn’t seasoned, and the unleavened bread dough ready to go hours before the evening meal.   To Martha there will be time later when the work was finished to visit with Jesus.  So she gave Mary the look.  The look that says don’t just sit there do something.  And when that didn’t work she complained to Jesus about Mary’s inactivity hoping that He would persuade Mary to do something even though she was already doing something better.

Slide5Many Christians today are like distract drivers with their relationship with Jesus.  They are so busy with doing they don’t have time to be with Jesus.

Busyness becomes a distraction better than anything else.  Too busy for church, too busy to pray, too busy to read the word…is basically telling Jesus who saved you that you are too busy to be with Him, could He come back later.    And we can even be too busy doing things for Jesus to notice that He’s here right now to be with us.  Martha shows us that.  She was so distracted by what she was doing for Jesus that she basically ignored Him.

Have you noticed, over the years, that when I lead the service off I almost always start with a prayer to the effect of, “Lord help us to push away the business of this day, the things planned for this afternoon and later, and help us to enter into your presence and really be here, to rest at your feet and to worship you with all our hearts”.

I pray this because I have found over the years that sometimes I’m just as distracted by the things about to happen in the service that I don’t enter into worship as I ought.  This sacred time on Sunday morning needs to be guarded from distractions no matter how important they may seem to be.

This sacred hour needs to be guarded from the world that is trying its level best to distract us to just do something.  In fact, the world would have us do anything rather than sitting in church and worshipping in the Master presence.  And let me tell you this, in order for Martha to do what she is gifted to do she needs to first be holy or her labours will be in vain.

Slide7The Bible says, “be holy even as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14).   Often we hear that word Holy and think it means being super pious, or righteous, perhaps even very disciplined.  And well these adjectives describe things that are holy the word in the Greek and the Hebrew itself basically means to set apart or set aside.  You can make something Holy by setting it apart for God.  Because Jesus is holy those who belong to Him who have the Spirit of God within them are in the process of being transformed into holiness. Transformed into His likeness.  Jesus was set apart by God to do what only God could do.  And He did so only after spending time in prayer with His Father in Heaven.  He didn’t add that to His day Jesus added His day to the outworking of His time with the Father.  Each day for Him was a holiday.

This service time is holy, or at least it should be. It should be spending time apart with the Master and His people.  It’s not about doing church…it’s about being His church.  Being separated unto Him.

What Mary did in our passage today, “sitting and listening to the Master’s words”(39) was an act of being holy.   Frankly every time we see Mary in the Bible she sets aside the ordinary for time to be with the extraordinary.  In John 11:42 we see her at Jesus feet pouring out her heart because her brother has died.  In John 12:3 Mary takes an expensive jar of perfume and anoints Jesus feet in front of the whole group.   If you want to be more holy spend more time with Jesus and you cannot help but be holy because He is Holy.

That is the difficult part that many Christians fail to recognize without someone pointing it out to them.  It is in taking time to be holy, taking time apart with Jesus, that we find the wisdom and strength to do something for Jesus.   Not the other way around.

Mary had chosen the better thing Jesus said.  Which is not to say that what Martha was doing was sinful.  It just wasn’t the best. Not for her or for their current situation.  It only caused her anxiousness and disrupted what it was that she was hoping to do in the first place. Namely helping people to come and be with Jesus.

Slide8In Martha’s mind things needed to be done before being with Jesus.  So Jesus said, “… only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (42).  Only one thing! Not ten.  If Martha wanted to be with Jesus she’d needed to stop and be holy.

Martha’s distractedness was a clear sign that she needed to calm down, take a chill pill as they say today, focus on and worship the Lord.  When you do you find the things of this earth don’t scatter your thoughts quite as much.  Your attitude improves and the irritations subside. When you begin with focusing on the Lord the rest seems to fall into place.

Remember that verse in 1st Corinthians 13 that the Pastor likely read at your wedding?   It may have seemed out of place then but it really wasn’t.

Slide9“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3 (NIV).   You can do great things for wrong reasons and in the end it amounts to nothing.  But with the love of God that Paul is talking about in that passage all things are possible.

The Bible Exposition Commentary puts it quite simple.   “It seems evident that the Lord wants each of us to imitate Mary in our worship and Martha in our work.” (– Be Compassionate (Luke 1-13).  Both attributes are important but without the one the other is only work.  So don’t just do something…sit first with Jesus and hear His word and then just do it! 

Someone once said, “What we do with Jesus is far more important than what we do for Jesus” (unknown).

 

Study Question:

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1. Are you typically a doer? Someone who prefers to do something?
2. Do you leave the clean-up of your home to just before guests arrive? Or are you prepared long before they come?
3. Read today’s passage in several versions if possible.

Luke 10:38-42
4. What was Martha wanting to do for Jesus and His disciples? (Luke 10:38; 2 John 1:10 )
5. What do we learn about Mary in verse 39? (Luke 10:39; see also John 11:1-5; 12:1-3)
6. What was Mary doing while Jesus was talking? (Luke 10:39; Deut 33:3; Proverbs 8:34; 1 Cor. 7:32)
7. What was Martha’s state of mind? (Luke 10:40; see also Luke 12:29; John 6:27)
8. What did Martha accuse Jesus of? (Luke 10:40; Mt. 6:32; 14:15; see also Psalm 121:3; Psalm 8:4)
9. How did Martha feel about what Mary was doing? (Luke 10:40; Luke 8:14; Prov. 14:30; 1 Cor. 13:5; James 3:16)
10. What did Martha ask Jesus to do? (Luke 10:40)
11. What did Jesus do with Martha’s request? (Luke 10:41; Mark 4:19; Phil 4:6; 1 Cor. 7:35; )
12. How was Mary’s choice better than Martha’s according to Jesus? (Luke 10:41-42; Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 18:22; Psalm 27:4; Psalm 73:25; Psalm 119:11; John 10:27-28; John 17:3; Mark 8:36;* 1 John 5:11-12)
13. What events are coming up in which you need to focus on being a student of Christ?
14. What can you do this week to help a friend so that he or she can have more time to pray or read the Bible?

Number 21:4-9 Listen your Father has heard you!

Psalm 121:1-8 (NIV) “ 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3  He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4  indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5  The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6  the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7  The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; 8  the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Slide2Ever since I got those silly drones my passion for the great outdoors, and the beauty of God’s creation, has been rekindled in new ways.Continue reading

Numbers 20:1-13 Stop grief from bringing you more grief.

 Slide1 22  Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24  I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25  The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26  it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:22-26 (NIV).

This week as I was talking with and frankly mostly listening to Pastor Noel from the Victory church his words tugged on my heart.  Continue reading

Mark 10:46-52 Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

“ 28  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  (Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

Slide1How is your prayer life? It’s a legitimate question.  I’m your Pastor and I care about you.  I ought to know, how is your prayer life?   Are you actively seeking God, calling out for wisdom and the strength to overcome the stuff that the world is throwing at us all?  And are you seeing answers to those prayers? Are you on fire with prayer?  Are you one of those people who when you see a person in need do you naturally and instantly begin to pray?Continue reading

Numbers 14:22-30 God’s cure for real bad attitudes.

Numbers 140Slide2Did you know; “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)?

The Apostle James says, “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to control his whole body” (James 3:2).

Have you ever said something that you instantly wished you had never uttered?  I suspect all of us have experienced this at some point.  It happens.  If you speak for a living you are bound to say wrong things at times.  But what about those times you deliberately say things that provoke? In your passion you got angry about something and before you had time to really examine the issue your mouth opened and the words just came out. And the damage was done!

Today’s portion of HIStory speaks about the consequences of letting loose the tongue without thinking about the consequences.

Slide3Proverbs 21:23 says, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.”

We all know that wars have been started from words uttered in haste.  And when people choose to stir up rebellion the results are often unpredictable.  Even words that are not meant to harm can break long term relationships.  Case in point…

Slide4Today is Karemi’s birthday and I remember that day like it was just yesterday.  She was such a beautiful baby.  I maybe bias but I think all my kids were good looking babies!  Anyway…I remember one day a friend of ours was over with her new born baby. Lorna was dressed in a lovely creation from her Oma and picture perfect. (OK so I’m a little bias). But our friend was flowing with compliments about her lovely chubby cheeks and beautiful smiles, enamored at just how beautiful a baby we had. And then she would look at her baby and then back to ours and back again to her baby.

So I thought she was looking for some constructive criticism about him. Now you have to realize my filters were not as good back then as they are today.  In fact, I often said exactly what I was thinking. And apparently that day was no exception.

Yes, I felt we had been blessed with a beautiful baby girl. The facts laid right there before us and even this woman didn’t dispute it. So it had to be true. And then I said something like, “someday your son may be hansom and sweep my little girl off her feet”.

Well, instantly her countenance changed, so I’m told. I don’t always pick up on such things. And she took such offence with my comment that their family stopped coming over to our house for quite some time. What I later found out from her was that she interrupted what I said to the effect of her baby boy was ugly.

Now, I know that I had good enough filters not to come straight out and say that even if I might have been thinking something like that. In my defense her baby was rather unique.  His strange curvature of the skull was beyond the symmetry for what we normally think of as beautiful or handsome.  But I was sure that was temporary.  And while the truth is I did think he wasn’t as beautiful a baby as mine I tried as best I could to think up and give a compliment.

Anyway, damage was done. I wrecked a four-year friendship with what turned out to be misplaced emphasis.   Apparently if I had left out “may be” all would have been fine?  It took them 7 years to come back over to our house and share with us why that relationship suddenly ended.  I had no idea at the time that being honest with my feelings could cause her such hurt.  I apologized when I heard her but truly the damage was done and couldn’t be reversed.  We both lost out on what was looking to be a lasting friendship.

Thank God for grace right?  Thank God we know that there is forgiveness to be found from Him even when our lips cause offence.  It may not be forth coming from the people who heard us but we know that God accepts us when, in humility, the prayer of repentance comes from our lips and we know He extends forgiveness.  And yet today’s passage in HIStory reminds us that there are always consequences for our words and actions and especially those bad attitudes when they leak out.  And sometimes the consequences last an awful long time.  Especially when, with a bad attitude, we complain about what God is doing and refuse to repent.

If you have your Bible or App alone turn to Numbers 14 and I’ll be focusing on just a small section beginning at 22.  Numbers 14:22-30


22  not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times– 23  not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24  But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. 25  Since the Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.” 26  The LORD said to Moses and Aaron:  27  “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites.
28  So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say:  29  In this desert your bodies will fall–every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30  Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.” (Numbers 14:22-30 (NIV)

I know this seems like a strange place to start this passage.  After all we are only hearing part of the story.  And what we are hearing doesn’t paint a very positive picture of God’s grace.  So, just what happened to cause our God who is slow to anger, abounding in love, forgiving of sins, to send His chosen people to wander for a whole decade in the dessert?

Slide6

In a word, “contempt”.  God said to Moses, “No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it” (Num. 14:23) We saw that same attitude last week with the neighbours and family of Jesus, according to Mark 6:3 when the people “took offense at Jesus”.   It was contempt of authority. And it always starts with a bad attitude.  An attitude that says we know better than those who are leading us.  Even better than God himself.

See the spies had just come back from the promised land and reported to the people that there were giants with huge swords that would in their estimation bring on devastation, to the people of God, if they attempted to take the land.

This wasn’t the report that Moses and Aaron or the rest of Israel were hoping for but it also wasn’t completely accurate. Yes, there were some Goliath sized enemies in that land but hey God had just delivered Israel from Egypt’s chariots and vastly superior armies.   Remember those overwhelming forces lay dead on the bottom of the Red Sea.  And not one Israelite was lost in battle fighting them!  God had won the victory for them.  But clearly that wasn’t good enough for them.  And so they grumbled and complained yet again.

If you scroll up in that passage to the beginning of chapter 14 you’ll find what their lips uttered.

Verse one and forward says, 1  That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2  All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3  Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4  And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt. (Numbers 14:1-4 (NIV)

Now, quite understandably they were fearful because of the report they had received.  And fear causes in all of us this fight or flight reaction.  So I certainly can understand the weeping and to some extent even the grumbling.  And I don’t think for a moment that the God who said, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7), was mad at them for their fearful reaction to the news.  The problem was they projected that fear towards who?

Towards the leaders that they had chosen to lead them out of Egypt?  Had they chosen Moses and Aaron?  Who chose Moses for that role?  Yet they said “we should choose another leader and go back to Egypt” (4).  

It’s not that they didn’t have a say in following Moses out of Egypt.  The truth is they left that former way of life of their own free will.  They chose to follow God’s ambassador to the promised land.  But the one thing they didn’t get to choose was who that ambassador from God was to be.  That was God’s choice and His alone!

Fear warps our perception and causes what appears in this case to be temporary amnesia.  For they had cried out to God in Egypt (cf. Exodus 3:7-9; 6:5-6)  because of the cruelty they were facing daily.  But suddenly now they want to return to it?

Slide8Forget not His ways!

This wasn’t the first time they wanted to go back to the ‘good ol’ days’.  In fact, every time they faced opposition they got amnesia and forgot what God had said and done for them.  And you and I aren’t much different in that regard.  We selectively remember the things of the past that we thought were “so good” but forget about all the other stuff, the heart aches, the sin that snared us, even the sacrifice that we went through to be where we are.  We humans have selective and easily distorted memories.

And Satan counts on that fact and takes advantage of every opportunity to deceive us into believing that we were better off before knowing Jesus.  Before He became our LORD and Saviour.   And at just the most opportune time Satan whispers let’s go back to the way things were.

Well just how were things before you knew Christ as LORD?  The Bible says you belonged to your father the devil and worshiped the things of his world, doing his bidding (cf. John 8:44). The devil was your lord and he would like that role back. He would truly enjoy making you curse God and die or at least truly miserable trapped in the desert of rebellion.    

If rebelling against God’s chosen leaders wasn’t enough to merit a 40 year sentence what they went on to do showed the proclivity of their hearts.  They actually accused God of bringing them through the desert so that they could die by the sword.  Like as if He was some cosmic kill joy who planned for new ways of torturing His chosen ones.  And not only that but they accused God of wanting ill for their wives and children too, as though they cared and could protect them more than God.  They grumbled and complained to Moses and said, 3 … Our wives and children will be taken as plunder.”Slide9

It’s hard for us to understand when trouble overwhelms us that God is still good.  When we feel powerless to change the circumstances we find ourselves in we may even be tempted to blame God. And you know what?  I don’t think He minds hearing those doubts and fears coming from our lips to His ears.  Look at the Psalms and you see David a man after God’s own heart lamenting time and time again about the circumstances he finds himself in.

And isn’t that exactly what we find Moses and Aaron doing in verse Numbers 14:5 and forward.  When they heard the latest grumbling they fell on their faces before the whole assembly.  (Part of me thinks they might have ducked so as not to be hit by lightning from on high. 🙂 But truly their reaction to the rebellion taking place was to intercede and call out to God to hold back His fury because they knew the sting of this unruly crowd’s words and the threats from their mouths of stoning  of those who tried to calm the storm (cf. Numbers 14:6-9) would not be taken likely from on High. (cf.  Numbers 14:10)

In verse 11  The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? 12  I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you (Moses) into a nation greater and stronger than they.” (Numbers 14:11-12 (NIV)

Again I wonder if Moses later regretted what he did next in this part of HIStory?  After all, the offer was a pretty good one.  Start all over fresh with God’s help and the promise to make him (Moses) into a great nation.  He could have distanced himself from those people who were making life so difficult for him.

But this truly humble man named Moses pleaded for them, and reminded the Lord of how HIStory might be recorded should He wipe out all those grumblers and complainers with one mighty act from on high (cf. Numbers 14:13-17).

And Moses reminded God of what God Himself had told Moses about God’s character.      18  ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.  (cf. Exodus 34:6) Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’

And then Moses leaped out in faith interceding on behalf of those grumblers and complainers.  19  In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” (Numbers 14:18-19 (NIV).

Sure they had repeated trampled upon and threatened the servants of the Most High from the moment God sent them to lead Israel out of Egypt but why stop forgiving them now?

Slide13God heard Moses prayer.  20  The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked” (Numbers 14:20 (NIV).   Imagine if Moses in his hurt and anger hadn’t asked God for mercy on their behalf?  What would have been the outcome?

Actually you don’t have to imagine that.  Verse 12 says what God was about to do.  12  I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them…” (Numbers 14:12 (NIV).  This was not an empty threat …  it was a call to prayer and to intercession.   So next time you think praying and intercession doesn’t change things read this passage and particularly verse 20 again.  God said it was because Moses asked!  Instead of the death penalty God chose life for His chosen ones because Moses cared enough to ask.

Yes there was still consequences as we read at the beginning of today’s passage.  But instead of the plague God actually used the people’s own words determine their punishment.

They said, according to verse 3, “If only we had died …in this desert!”  As though somehow the desert was better than what God wanted for them?  They basically said, we would prefer not going into that promised land then to risk following God (cf. v. 4).   God basically said, Ok, I’ll give you what you asked for.” Just remember you asked for it!

But I don’t think your children will have the same desire as you.  Yet if you insist, 28  … ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: 29  In this desert your bodies will fallevery one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30  Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.”

They were the two spies that saw the same giants in the land and still they tried to persuade the people (cf. vs 7-9) that God is bigger than any enemy they saw.

But dying in the dessert was only half of what they said, half of what God heard.   God said in verse 31, 31  As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected (Numbers 14:31 (NIV)
God noticed that they justified their grumbling and rebellion as though it was for the sake of their wives and children while accusing Him of ill intentions towards them.  So He said that He would deliver their children to the promised land they had rejected.  But wait, there were even more consequences for their rebellion.

God said to them in verse 33, 33  Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert.” Numbers 14:33 (NIV) Slide15They were the ones who caused their children hardship and  harm not God.  Their choices, their bad attitudes, their grumbling and complaining not only effected them but would radically effect their children for the next forty years until every last one of the people 20 and over on the day God pronounced His Judgment had died in the desert.   Even with forgiveness the consequences of their sin took it’s toll.

Now you would think that after hearing from God about what your sin wrought that you might repent and fall on your face before the Lord, wouldn’t you?  But God wasn’t finished with curing the bad attitudes.  The men who actually spied out the land and then stirred up the community to rebel against Moses got to find out first hand what a plague from God does.  Those spies died almost instantly. (cf.  Numbers 14:36-38)   Shocking the whole nation I’m sure. And showing that God truly meant what He said.

Which then was followed by that bargaining thing we do when we know the gig is up and we were in the wrong.   It says in verse 40, 40  Early the next morning they went up toward the high hill country. “We have sinned,” they said. “We will go up to the place the LORD promised.” (Numbers 14:40 (NIV)

When they heard about God’s judgment on the spies some of the people had a sudden change of heart.  They mourned their naughtiness, which was good.  And just as suddenly they were not only willing but insistent upon entering the promised land.  (cf. Numbers 14:39-45).

Seems they actually thought they were the ones in control of their destiny and not God.  Perhaps they thought they could appease Moses and cause God to relent by doing what they were told albeit after the fact.  Like, “better late then never”.  Proving once again that two wrongs don’t make it right.

The truth is when God says something will not happen there is nothing the world that can over rule Him.  God said they would not enter the promised land and in fact warned them to not go because He was not with them and their enemy was in the direction they were heading (cf. Numbers 14:41-43).  But once again they  refused to listen to those God sent to warn them.  They presumed that God would get on board with their plan now that they were on board with His promised land directive.  And God, ever true to His word, was not with them and thereby let them take a beating for their presumption.

God has a cure for bad attitudes and ill faith and let me tell you this part of HIStory reminds us that it is a dangerous thing not to heed God’s warnings.

But it also tells us that God rewards faith even from those who do not exercise it perfectly.  True to His word, Joshua and Caleb and their families did indeed get to set foot in the promised land some forty years later.  You can read about it in Joshua 1-5

God truly is, 18  ‘… is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.”  He blesses and often doesn’t treat us as our sin deserves.  (see Psalm 103:10-14)

But more than that, God sent His only son that whosoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).   Jesus paid the penalty of our sins.   There is forgiveness of all our  sins for all who ask.   All you need to do to escape the desert is call on the name of the Lord.Slide16

In humility, pray out to the LORD, admit you have not followed the LORD but chosen to go your own way.  (Romans 3:23) And then do as Israel did in Numbers 14:39, mourn and grieve your sinful actions for Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10) .  Ask Jesus to forgive your sins, and every sin that comes to mind, confess it to Him and then accept He is good to His Word and will prepare you to go to the promised land.  He is faithful and just and will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John. 1:9).  And He’ll give you His Holy Spirit to guide you all the way home.

And when you’ve accepted Christ’s gift to you don’t keep it to yourself but go and share it with someone who needs God’s grace to escape the desert!  AMEN!


Discussion Starters:

1. When you are out in public and see a child throw a tantrum do you form an opinion about the parents?

2. What pleases you most about God? What scares you the most about Him?

Read Numbers 14:22-30 in several translations if possible.

1. What punishment did Israel’s sin wrought? (Numbers 14:22-23; 28-29 )

2. What was their sin? (see for back ground: Numbers 13:27-33 ; 14:1-4, 10, )

3. What did Moses and Aaron do when they heard the grumbling? (Numbers 14:5, 13-19; Psalm 106:23)

4. Does God listen to prayers on behalf of others? (Numbers 14:20; Exodus 32:31-33; 34:9-10; Dan 6:10;9:19 ; Psalm 78:38-39; Jonah 1:1-3; Jonah 3:7-10; Jonah 4:1-2; Eph 6:18-19; Isaiah 26:16; Acts 1:14; 12:5; Romans 12:12; Phil 4:6; Col. 4:2; 2 Tim 1:3; 1 Tim 2:1 )

5. Did God actually forgive Israel in our passage today? (Numbers 14:20 ; Micah 7:18-20; 1 Jn 5:14-16)

6. Who were exempted from dying in the dessert? And Why? ( Numbers 14:24, 29-30 , 6, Num 32:12; Jos 14:8-9)

7. Did Moses and Aaron go to the promised land? (Deut 3:23-26; 34:4-5; Numbers 20:28 )

8. How does a bad attitude lead to bad choices?

9. In what part of your live do you need to show an attitude of gratitude towards God this week?

10. In what area of life are you praying for more strength from God?

11. Who are you currently praying and intercedeing for before God.

Mark 6:1-6 How not to amaze God…

Slide1Do you rely on first impressions?  You know those first encounters with a person or group of people that God places in your path.  Do you trust your first impression?  Do you go with it or do you leave room for God in the midst of that uneasiness, or even negative feeling?

Slide2-Mark6 Dr. Luis Palau was our plenary speaker at the conference and retreat this year.  You may be wondering as I was before going just who he is.  Of course being a geek I looked him up on the net and even listened to a message from him on Youtube before I went to the Conference.  And my first impression was…why on earth had our BCMB Leadership picked Dr. Palau as the plenary speaker?

Not that I found anything wrong with him on the net.  It’s just that first impression stuff that we all grapple with and frankly I am really beginning to think we need to tame at times!  Maybe even throw out!

See, I saw an old man of Argentinian decent whose English was somewhat Spanglish, though the Latino accent was not too overwhelming.  His gruff voice told me he had used that instrument a lot in life and oh did I mention that he is now over eighty?

So to be honest, before getting to know him, my first impression was sounds like a nice enough guy.  But this is our BC Conference big event of the year.  Usually we have some hot shot, you know the latest church planting or church growth guru from the States.  I guess we don’t have any Canadians worth listening too?  Anyway this 81-year-old Palau was paid to speak to 340 Pastors and Spouses of the BC Conference about Spirit Empowered Ministry.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure living that long would bound to have given this man a good story or two to share… but really…you would think that at 81 he’s been retired likely for most of my ministry life… I confess, first impressions can create in us bad attitudes!  I actually had to begin praying before getting to this event that God would soften my heart so that I would actually hear what God wanted to impart through Dr. Palau. And I also prayed that I would respect the leadership’s decision, that of all the people on planet earth this was the one we as Province needed to listen to.

And I am sure glad I went.  I can tell you that I was actually amazed by what God was able to accomplish through this aging man of God.  Delighted!  In fact, in my almost twenty years of going to these conferences I have never been so blessed, challenged and filled as I was at this one.  What can you learn from an octogenarian who has been used of God to lead millions to Christ?  Mucho!  If you have ears to hear and a heart that is open to the Holy Spirit of God. Or perhaps nothing at all if you simply rely on first impressions.

First impressions!  Seriously folks we need to get over them if God is going to be able to do anything of substance in our midst and more importantly if He is going to be able to use you and me to extend His Kingdom.   And you know what?  We aren’t the first people nor the last ones that have become too full of our own opinions that we would miss out on what God is wanting to do in our midst.    Even when Jesus walked the earth he ran into those attitudes that inhibit faith and frankly can get in the way of miracles.

If you have your Bible or your device with you turn with me to Mark 6:1-6.
 “1  Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.  2  When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3  Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4  Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” 5  He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6  And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.” (Mark 6:1-6 (NIV)

Where did you grow up?   Do the people there still know you for who you were or do they know you for who you have become? Slide4

I was born and grew up in NE Calgary and pretty much lived there for the first seventeen years of my life.  My father and sisters still live in this house I called home and many of their neighbors, at least the ones who are still alive, still live on that block.

Across the street we had this great park where all the children of the neighborhood would play under the watchful eyes of the moms and dads of the community.  You couldn’t get away with anything without it being noticed and when warranted, reported back to mom or dad.

What a surprise it was to those old neighbors when, as one person in earshot said, “that little rascal Blake preached at his mom’s funeral”.  Afterward some of the neighbors actually came up to me and said they could hardly believe it was me.  And they couldn’t believe how I turned out nor what came out of my mouth.  They were pretty sure I was headed for a life of crime or something not for the pastorate.

Like my old neighbors the folks in HIStory were beyond first impressions!  This story takes place where Jesus grew up and became a man.  Where He started His trade as a carpenter, and where He was well known by the people.

Many in that crowd were actually related to Him, many but not all.  Some were half-brothers and half-sisters on His mother’s side.   Clearly Mary was no perpetual virgin as some religions call her!

Slide5But these were His neighbors the ones who played with Jesus as a child, who went to synagogue and likely traveled to the festivals and Jerusalem in caravan.   But as the old saying goes “familiarity breeds contempt”.  And that saying certainly fits so well for this part of HIStory.    They seemed happy to see Him come home.  Happy to come and listen to him teach.  After all who doesn’t want to hear the neighborhood boy that grew up and made a name for himself?  You get to play remember when…

In fact, Luke says, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.”  But Jesus knew their hearts.   “Jesus said to the likes of them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'” Luke 4:22-23 (NIV).   They remembered the Jesus that went away but clearly couldn’t recognize Who stood before them that day.  They were stuck on those last impressions and refused to accept the authority by which He now spoke.  Familiarity had indeed bred contempt.

This is true of all our stories! Remember the zealousness you had as a new believer?  If you were anything like me, you couldn’t wait to share what you found out about Jesus with your family and friends and the people closest to you…the very ones you grew up with.   At first I had no filters that way.  No inhibitions…just a burning desire to introduce them to Jesus.   Since I didn’t really know all that much about Jesus I used tracts and carefully placed portions of Scripture.  And I tried hard to work Jesus into every conversation I could.

Even though I had changed dramatically all they could see and what they were heard through their well-worn filters was the same old Blake that they had already rejected as not relevant to their lives telling them about Jesus who they had long ago dismissed as irrelevant.  Now it doesn’t matter that they found me wanting but Jesus?

And of course when I detected even a hint of rejection I beat them over the head with the Word. I told them they would burn in hell if they didn’t accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour!

That sure went over well.  Some of those relationships were never quite the same again. After that approach they took offense at anything that I said that remotely resembled the gospel.

The ones that put up with me told me that “I would get over that Christian stuff in time”.  Well that was thirty years ago next month and I’m still not over it but some of them are beginning to come around.

Yet I have to say I can’t blame them for wanting to shoot the messenger.  If I’d known, then, what I know now I suspect the message might have had a lot more of the grace of Jesus and a lot less zeal of me attached to the message I proclaimed.

That grace is so evident in this passage.  Can you even begin to imagine the scenario that Mark paints for us here?

Slide6 Jesus sees His family and friends treating Him disrespectfully and yet there He was laying hands on the sick and they were being healed! Healed!   Right there in front of those people who knew Him best but denied Him most.  Say what would you call that?   Sick people instantly healed?  There is a word for that.

I’ll tell you what I’d call it grace in action…miracles from the hands of the Lord.   It was a miracle designed to remind those who disrespected Him just who it was they “took offence” at.

If it was me I would have rained lightning bolts down from heaven or told those friends and relatives that they were all in danger of going to Hell.  But our Lord is so amazingly patient.  He never held back the truth …but He amazingly patient!

 16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18 (NIV) 

Healings!  Yet Mark says that no miracles could happen there except one kind!  Why was Jesus only able to heal the sick?    We are not directly told but I believe that those who were most in need likely didn’t show the same contempt His “smarter healthier” friends did.  They were too sick to waste energy on contempt.  And you know how you are when you are sick.  A lot of those preconceived biases just seem to get laid aside.  In fact, it’s hard to think much about anything else other than getting well.

And I can tell you from experience being down trodden or sick or on  death’s door step is actually fertile ground that allows for miracles.   In humility those sort of folks received prayer and the laying on of hands from the Master.   And Mark says they were healed!

So why no other miracles?   The real issue was that most of the people in His hometown only saw Jesus as one of the boys!  One of Mary’s sons!  No one special…just one of the boys!

And while that bias may be true of you and I when we return home it certainly wasn’t true of Jesus.  There was never before in HIStory a man just like Him.  He was one in a billion!

No even that would lower Him in order to elevate us to His level.  But you and I will never be at His level.   While it is absolutely true that Jesus put on flesh and walked amongst mankind it is also absolutely true that being fully man He retained His identity as fully God (cf. Philippians 2:6-11).

Now, I personally cannot comprehend that.  Fully man yet fully God.  It’s above my pay scale to even begin to explain it.   It takes faith to even accept it…but it is true never the less.

Slide7And clearly it was way too much for the people who had watched Jesus grow into a competent carpenter having taken on his father’s trade.  They could not comprehend, let alone accept, that the one who lived next door actually was the Son of God. To them He was just Jesus bar Joseph, who made excellent furniture as a skilled crafts man.

I believe Jesus knew that would be the reaction.  He knew that “a Prophet is not Honored in His own home town”. 

We all have seen this to some degree.  It’s that “familiarity breeds contempt” that we witness when people don’t respect the teacher who they know, who has lived and worked and served them in their own community for decades but when a out of town expert comes all of a sudden there is respect for authority.   Remember an expert is just someone who knows something different than you do but lives outside your circle of influence.

Jesus is truly amazing! Even their lackadaisical treatment didn’t prevent Jesus from trying to share the Gospel.  It was far too important.  And yet their treating God with contempt, and actually taking offense with Him, did have consequences.  He chose not to do His bigger miracles in their midst.  And so they lost out on inexpressible awe and joy that could have been theirs if only they would have exercised a little more faith.

Canada has suffered from this familiarity problem with Jesus for long enough now.  There was a time in our part of HIStory when Canada could be called mostly a Christian nation.  A time when Jesus name was honored in schools and in the courts of our land.  A time when uttering the name of Jesus perversely swiftly brought on a bar of soap to cleanse the tongue.   But that time has past.  The familiarity brought such contempt for the name of Jesus that it is more often used as a swear word in our land than the Author of the WORD.

Mark tell us that Jesus was shocked at their stubbornness.  Amazed is what the word the NIV uses.  Amazed? Why was Jesus amazed?

Was it not because they knew Him. They actually knew Him on sight.  They were His family and friends!  What’s wrong with this picture?

Slide8-Mark6I don’t know about your but I kind of expect push back from strangers when I teach about Jesus.   After-all how do they know if I’m an expert or something.  Yet those closest to Jesus chose not to know Him for Who He was and is and will always be.  It’s not like they didn’t know any better.  They clearly had received word from reliable sources about all the miracles He had done in Capernaum.  They simply made a decision to ignore their old friend’s wisdom because they thought they new better than him.  Like all of us they suffered from pride and envy. 

And it’s pride and envy that warps our first impressions! Remember it can take less than a tenth of a second to make a first impression and we all too quickly pass judgement based upon that flicker in time.   And that bias may stick with us for eternity if we’re not willing to test it out.  But remember who in this story today were the ones that suffered most from a lack of faith?  It wasn’t a 1st impression!

Jesus knows the heart of man.  He knew that those who quickly believed in Him would also be the ones who yelled loudest crucify Him (cf. Jn. 2:24).  And He knew that those in His family, the ones that amazed Him with their initial lack of faith, would one day be the very pillars of the church leading scores of others to Him (cf. Gal. 1:18; James 1-5).

So I ask you again, have first impressions of Christ caused you to doubt Who He claimed to be?  Then dig into the Word and examine the evidence before making those first impressions your last.    Did you grow up in a Christian home and walk away as a young adult?  Perhaps the familiarity bred contempt?  You need to confess that to the LORD and return to believing in the one who healed the sick and even raised the dead and Who is alive forever more!  Because HE is coming again!  Coming only for those who don’t amaze Him by their lack of faith!

 




Discussion Starters:

  1. Do you rely on first impressions? Tell of a time when your 1st impression proved off.

 

  1. Have there been times in your life when you felt like a second class citizen in your own hometown?

 

  1. How have other members of you family felt about your faith?

Read Mark 6:1-6 in several translations if possible.

  1. Where did Jesus and his disciples end up in verse 1? (Mark 6:1; Luke 4:16)

 

  1. Was Jesus a good teacher according to verse 2? (Mark 6:2; 1:22; Luke 4:15, 32; Matthew 7:28-29)

 

  1. What made His teaching so amazing? (Jeremiah 23:28-29; Jn 6:63; 1 Cor. 2:4-5 ; 2 Cor. 4:2; 2 Cor. 10:4-5; 1 Thes. 1:5; Hebrews 4:12-13)

 

  1. Did the people know Jesus according to verse 3? (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55-56; Luke 4:22; John 6:42; Isaiah 53:2-3; Matthew 12:46; Gal 1:19; Jude 1:1; Mark 3:18; Acts 1:13)

 

  1. Why did they take offence? (Mark 6:3-4; Luke 2:34; John 6:60-61; 1 Cor. 1:23)

 

  1. Did Jesus do any miracles in his hometown? (Mark 6:5; Matthew 13:58; Isaiah 59:1-2)

 

  1. What inhibited Jesus from doing more miracles in His hometown? (Mark 6:5; Heb. 4:2)

 

  1. What inhibits Jesus from doing miracles amongst us? (Heb. 4:2)

 

  1. What amazed Jesus in verse 6? (Mark 6:6 )

 

  1. What can we do to prevent becoming like the people from Nazareth? (1Tim 6:20-21; Jude 3 , 20 )