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

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?

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?

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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:

==========================================

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 )

Exodus 14:21-31 Fear of the LORD brings freedom from FEAR!

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19).  “But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them…; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:39)  Fear of the LORD brings freedom from FEAR!

How many of you actually read the whole bulletin?  Pastor Gail added a quote from The Pilgrim’s Song Book that seems to fit so well with today’s Scripture portion. It was like God was giving us a primer to focus our thoughts on throughout the week.

Slide2The quote was, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else. “Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord”;… (The Highest Good—The Pilgrim’s Song Book).

The Bible quote on the end is from Psalm 128, one of the Psalms of Ascent that Israel would recite as they made their way up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and other feasts.  Or perhaps as some scholars claim, these were sung by the Levites as they ascended the fifteen steps in the Temple. Either way it was a Psalm of one on a journey to meet with God.

Psalm 128 tells us that not only is the fear of the Lord helpful to prevent other fears from overwhelming us but there are many blessings that one receives when their heart knows “the fear of the Lord”.

Slide3 “Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways.   You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.  Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.  Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD.   May the LORD bless you from Zion all the days of your life; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem, and may you live to see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel.” Psalm 128:1-6 (NIV)

Seems to me that the blessings of fearing God outweigh the supposed freedom of following in one’s stubborn ways do they not?  The blessings are both material and spiritual in nature. Blessings include, “eating the fruit of your labour” (2), “a growing family with an enjoyable home life” (3), “travel” (5), “and even greater longevity” (6).

But did you notice it doesn’t promise a life of ease or leisure? Or suggest in any way that those who fear the Lord need not work nor should they sit around with hands wide open waiting for the blessings to fall from heaven?  Instead they learn to walk in His ways.   But just how does one learn the fear of the Lord that the Psalmist proclaims as such a good thing?

Perhaps today’s passage in HIStory can help us to understand that God uses both the good times and the not so good times to teach us to fear and trust in Him.

So if you have your Bible with you turn with me to Exodus 14 and we’ll pick up where we left off two weeks ago when we looked at learning lessons the hard way. Exodus 14:19-31 (NIV)
 “19  Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20  coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. 21  Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22  and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 23  The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24  During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion.

25  He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.” 26  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27  Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28  The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen–the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. 29  But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30  That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31  And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”  Exodus 14:19-31 (NIV)

In modern military and policing terms when one is “on point” it means they are out front, closest to danger and usually the most exposed.  This is not usually the coveted position as it comes with the most risk.  But some people actually like the point position because they get to lead the way.

Slide6On exercises with the reserves I was never “on point”.  I was a rather large easily spotted target.  So it wouldn’t be the best position to have me in and yet I mostly found myself in the position just back of point.  In a sense I would have the back of the point person because as the radio man I could call in support when I saw him in trouble. Otherwise my job was to let the mission commander know what the point was up to.  Providing I could actually see him that is.   A good point tried to blend into his surroundings and was quite stealth so I would need to follow close enough to know where he was going but far enough to be able to radio or signal for back up.

From the moment they left Egypt and crossed the dessert God’s angel was the point person (cf. Exodus 13:21).  Exodus 13:21-22 (NIV) “ 21  By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  22  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” And He was a rather unusual point at that.  There was no stealth in Him!  He raised a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night so that everyone following knew exactly where he was and what direction they needed to go.   However, when the time came to cross the Red Sea, God’s point moved from the front to the rear of the procession. He went from leading them to the promise land to having their back along the way.

Slide7In fact He became a huge distraction for the forces of Pharaoh so that as Moses stretched out his staff and parted the Red Sea the way was clear for Israel to proceed.  God placed Himself between the enemy and the promised land.  Between Pharaoh and Israel.

The same can be said about Jesus and what He did on the cross.  The enemy that was pursuing us; would in fact catch up and over take us without the intervention of our Saviour.  So Christ stepped in when mankind was in eternal danger and prevented the devil from winning the war.

Think about that for a moment.  “Moses said, 20  …Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long”.

Slide8God literally stepped in separating His chosen ones from their greatest fear as well as closest physical threat.   And He did this even after they had grumbled and complained to Moses about having brought them to die in the dessert.

This stepping between is what we call intercession of biblical proportions!  It is coming between the treat and the target for the benefit of the target.  The Bible says, “…Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34).  Elsewhere is says, “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (Heb. 9:24).  Jesus has our back. And if God has our back, whom then shall we fear?

Look how far God went to prove this to them!  After giving Israel all night to cross the Sea on dry land God stepped out of the way of Pharaoh knowing that his stubborn pride hadn’t taken the hint.

Again think about this for a moment.  All night long this massive cloud was preventing them from pursuing Israel.  All night long!  Up to that point I believe Pharaoh could have presumably repented and turned around with His armies and they would have escaped with their lives.  But pride goes before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction (Prov.16:18)

10 times Pharaoh had been warned by God’s mouthpiece to let the chosen people go.  Each time the signs and wonders increased in severity and each time Pharaoh chose to stubbornly ignore God.

The Apostle Peter reminds us, “The Lord is …is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter. 3:9).  But there does come a time when the cup of inequity spills over and justice takes the shape of the Lord’s wrath.

You and I never want to find out where that line is, amen?  That’s why it is wise to fear God and heed his warnings.

Slide9Moses tells us that, 23  The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea”.  Perhaps they thought with their superior technology that they could catch up to and overpower Israel.  But I mean really?  Had they not noticed the walls of water on both sides of them?   Remember we’re not talking about a little bit of water here.  It says they went down into the sea!  And if the place where scientists found the remains is accurate that sea was very deep.

Not only that but look what happens when God gets ticked!  24  During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion.
25  He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving.”  
There is plenty of speculation as to what those Egyptians saw, but Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.  So whatever they saw must have struck terror into their hearts.

We know it did because the next thing we are told is:“…the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.” (25).

Slide10Oh that they had come to that realization on the banks of the Red Sea.  Better yet, if they had stayed home and mourned their first born children.  There is a point where repentance will no longer cut it.  Where a hard heart reaps its reward.  Unfortunately, those who refuse to learn from Pharaoh’s mistakes eventually find out the hard way just how wrong it is not to fear God.  Sometimes as a Pastor you meet people who seem to think tomorrow is a good time to get right with God.  Tomorrow they’ll follow His call.  Tomorrow they’ll repent of their wrong doings and trust in God.  But this, like every tragedy in life, is a reminder that you don’t always get to tomorrow.

And it doesn’t matter what station in life you may find yourself in.  Surely after losing his only son, Pharaoh would have seen the walls of water and chose to withdraw from this foolishness.  But Psalm, 136:15 says, “that water swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea…”.  It was over before they could get started.

God had Israel’s back! As Moses hand waved over the sea the waters lashed out and everyone in them drown.  Verse 28 says, “…not one survived”.   Not one!

If that doesn’t instill the fear of God’s wrath in you then your heart is in grave danger!  You should stop whatever you are doing right now and cry out for God’s mercy.  For God has provided a way to soften hearts of stone in those clay vessels and restore hearts of flesh.

Slide11God told Ezra to write, “…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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).

Slide12He told Ezekiel the prophet,  “25  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NIV)

Slide13When a firefighter enters a room engulfed in smoke and flames he will yell out, “Firefighter call out” and listen for those trapped in that dangerous place.  “Firefighter call out!”.  They announce themselves and their ability to save.  If a person won’t and can’t call out, they will surely perish. But if someone does answer the call, the firefighter reaches out, risks life and limp, to bring those, as good as dead, to where they can find life.

The Apostle Peter he promised, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’…The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:21,39).

 Slide14“That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.   And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant”  (Ex. 14:30-31).  It is right here in HIStory.

EBC says,  “The fear of the Lord (v.31) was the signal of a responsive attitude of submission and love equivalent to putting one’s whole trust in him.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The – The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 2: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers.)   I wish the story said and they lived happily ever after.  But we know that this was only the beginning of faith for them.

Faith is a journey not a destination. Even as their deliverance from Pharaoh was a part of the journey not the end of HIStory.  Many of those who walked across on dry land later forgot the Lord’s kindness and perished because they chose to give into all kinds of fear rather than to fear God and find freedom.

So what fear is preventing you from the freedom that comes from fearing God?


This week’s Study Questions.


1. What do you fear the most?
2. When do you feel the most secure?

Read Exodus 14:19-31 in several translations if possible.
Read Psalm 128

1.  What does it mean to fear the LORD? (Exodus 15:16; Joshua 22:24; Proverbs 29:25; Job 41:33; Matthew 14:26Psalm 11:10;34:11-14; Rom 3:18; Isaiah 8:13)
2.  Who interceded on behalf of Israel? (compare Exodus 13:21-22 with 14:19-20; see also Num 20:16; Isaiah 63:8-10)
3.  What mercies do we see in verse 20? (see also Prov. 4:18-19)
4.  Why did Moses need to stretch out his had? (Exodus 14:21; See Exodus 14:15a, 16)
5.  What happened when Moses stretched out his hand over the waters? (Exodus 14:21-22; 15:8; Joshua 3:7, 13-16; 4:23; Psalm 78:13; Psalm 106:7-10)
6.  Why did the Egyptians pursue Israel? (Exodus 14:23; 14:17; 15:9;* Romans 12:3; 1 Cor. 13:4; Phil 2:3; James 4:6-7)
7.  What happened during the last watch of the night? (24-25) And when exactly is that? (Job 22:13-16; Job 40:12; Psalm 18:13-14; Rom. 2:8; Rev. 19:15; Ex. 14:14,30; Deut. 3:22)
8.  Why did Moses need to stretch out his hand the second time? (Exodus 14:26-27)
9.  Why did God smite the Egyptians? (Exodus 14:26-28; Exodus 1:22; Judges 1:6-7; Isaiah 59:1-2; Matthew 7:2; James 2:13; Rev. 16:6)
10.  What was the end result of fear of God for the Israelites? (Exodus 14:31, 4:31, 19:9, 2 Chron 2:20; Psalm 119:120; 1 Sam 12:18; Luke 8:13; John 2:11, 2:23-25; John 8:30-32)
11.  How is trusting and obeying God tied to our safety and protection?
12.  What blessings can you see in trusting in God’s direction today?

Mark 2:1-12 In A Word Forgiven!

In a book called, “Will Daylight Come”, a story is told about “a little boy that was visiting his grandparents and was given his first slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target.

As he came back to Grandma’s back yard, he spied her pet duck. On an impulse he took aim and let fly. The stone hit, and the duck fell dead.

The boy panicked. Desperately he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn’t you, Johnny?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!

So Johnny did the dishes.

Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing, Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally smiled and said, “That’s all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it.” Again she whispered, “Remember the duck.”

Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing.

After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, finally he couldn’t stand it. He confessed to Grandma that he’d killed the duck.

“I know, Johnny,” she said, giving him a hug. “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you” (Richard Hoefler, Will Daylight Come’) Bible.org.

Slide2“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

I suspect God looks at times in bewilderment at His chosen ones.  “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that who so ever believes in Him should have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).  Yet even as we begin to grasp the wonderful sacrifice that procured this magnificent promise we still at times act as if Jesus Christ isn’t enough!  We act as though His power over sin and death can’t alleviate our guilt and remorse and those issues of life that get us down.   We think there’s got to be more! And we allow Satan to push us around as though we have a secret that must be kept hidden at all costs.

Today’s passage clearly announced more about two thousand years ago that God’s love had broken the chains of sin and guilt to stamp upon our hearts one word that changes everything: Forgiven.

Let’s look at this remarkable part of HIStory and see some amazing faith in action.

If you have a Bible or app with you, turn with me to Mark 2:1-12.
1  A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2  So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3  Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4  Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6  Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7  “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8  Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9  Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, 11  “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:1-12 (NIV). 

Slide4They had never seen anything like this before!  Truer words had never been spoken!   Jesus would later say to them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'” Mark 4:11-12 (NIV)

In this portion of HIStory Mark lays out for us the first time that Jesus announces His purpose directly to both saint and sinner alike.  And this without the usual caveat “don’t tell this to anyone”.  This amazing event took place in Capernaum the Prophet’s backyard, in the land of Galilee.  The very place where Jesus would later announce that He received no honor serving there.  And eventually in tears he warned the people that they were headed for God’s wrath because they had not embraced the many miracles done in their midst and turned to God in repentance.  Capernaum! “… you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today” (Matthew 11:23-24:NLT).

As we parted in chapter one you’ll remember that Jesus had to avoid public places because the news that a healer had come had spread and people were so excited to see how he did it.  Jesus knew that would happen and tried to persuade the leprous man to not tell anyone but that was like telling a child to leave the chocolates alone that were left open on the living room table.  Somehow those chocolates seem to persuade the child not to listen to parental authority even if it was for their own good.

So Jesus had to take some time and tour the region, healing the sick and casting out demons in other places before returning home to Capernaum.  And everywhere He went the crowds came out of nowhere.

As Mark begins this chapter saying, “a few days later”, we need to understand that few days is measured not after the healing of the leprous man but rather after what came after those lonely places.

And it would seem from Luke’s account that all that ministry caught the attention of the Scribes and religious leaders as the news spread so far and wide.

Slide5Luke 5:17 (NIV) tells us, 17  One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there.”

Sure got their attention!  They too were there to watch the magic show and try to figure out how he did that.  Jesus on the other hand was there to preach the word and make disciples.   Do you know what a disciple is?  The word simply means students.  Jesus was teaching His students in the “word” and by example.

Slide6He preached the Word!  What “word” you may be wondering since the Bible was not yet complete? Here the word used means preaching the Good News.  But Jesus wasn’t just having a conversation with the boys.  He was preaching about the mission God had sent Him to fulfill.  He was in fact writing the Bible on their hearts and before the eyes of those who would write the Gospels.  Including the part where those four guys caring a fifth man on a mat interrupted the show.

Mark states clearly that Jesus popularity had grown significantly by this point.  In fact, so many people wanted to see the miracle worker that the house he had been staying in couldn’t hold them all.  It was standing room only!

Say, what’s wrong with this picture?  Is it Biblically correct?

Slide7The verse clearly says, there was no room even outside the house, people were standing in the street peering through the doors and windows waiting to see Jesus.  We encountered the same thing when I was preaching over in Kenya.  I would look out the windows and see eyes looking in at us.

The congestion that day caused the men to become creative.  And the men who wanted a miracle in their friend’s life had to find another way to get to Jesus with him.

Imagine for a moment the scene Mark has painted here.  These men must climb the stairs that lead to the roof carrying their paraplegic friend with them.  Often stairs were on the outside rather than inside in those days.  But it could have been a roughhewn ladder that they crawled up to get to the roof.  The point is it took effort to get to the roof.  Once there, they gaze through the skylight and see Jesus preaching below.  Scratch that!  There were no skylights back then!   But there soon would be!

Slide8 The roof that was thick often with with tar and gravel over top of tiles.  Now imagine for a moment that you are downstairs as the roof suddenly starts opening up.  Dust and debris falling all around you!  It had to be a show stopper right?  But these men were determined to see Jesus and get help for their friend!  So they dug and then they took away enough tiles to lower this man and his mat through the hole.  What a sight to behold!

Jesus looking up, getting dust in his eyes as he sees that man slowly being lowered down, smiles just a hint.  He looks upon the four friends as they sheepishly grin hoping but not yet knowing if their plan would work or backfire royally.

It created the perfect teaching opportunity for Jesus.  Everyone’s attention is fixed upon this man and his friends.  They look back at the master and then at the paralytic, then back to the master.  What’s he going to do?  What will he say?  Will he yell at the man?  Maybe scold his friends for making such a disturbance, and interrupting his preaching?

Jesus instead speaks softly and tenderly, 5 …”Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5 (NIV). 

Slide9Our first question, naturally would be, what sins was he forgiving?  Was it a sin to crash the party?  Well I suspect the owner of the house might feel like it was.  After all someone is going to have to clean up that mess and fix his roof.   But that’s not at all how the Scribes took what Jesus said.

Inside they maybe thought, “ah ha…we got him this time!  He’s a blasphemer”.  And they had the full weight of the law on their side!  It clearly said no one, not even the Messiah could forgive sins.  No one but God could do that.  So if this Jesus was just a man, then they were right in their thinking.  Blasphemer!

But tell me, if you were in their place, wouldn’t you be surprised if Jesus said exactly what was on your mind?

Slide10That’s what he did!  Mark says, 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?  9  Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” Mark 2:8-9 (NIV)

Ok so they could chalk that up to a lucky guess on his part.  Maybe He was reading their body language.  But the passage is very clear once again.  It wasn’t body language or lucky guesses!   Jesus actually knew what they were thinking.  He wasn’t guessing!  He knew it.

So don’t you deceive yourself into thinking you can have personal thoughts that no one will ever know!   Jesus knows what is in the heart of Mankind!  After all He created us.

Slide11This question, “which is easier” (9), was used to draw what they were thinking and bring it to a proper conclusion.  While it was true that only God can forgive sins, their stinking thinking concluded that Jesus was faking being God.  Jesus in essence said, you’ve got it half right boys!  Only God can do that miracle on the inside and to prove it I will do the other seemingly impossible feat, this man will not only get up and start to walk in front of your very eyes but he’s going to walk right out of here on his own two feet!

That way they would know 10 …that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….”.   And with that statement Jesus took all the guess work out of this lesson for them.  He announced that He had the authority to do what only God can do!  Which makes Him Who?  ?  ?  Either a deranged lunatic, a very clever charlatan or God come in the flesh.

Then, “He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  It was an order not a request.  The LORD had spoken.  It is strongly worded in the Greek.  And this is emphasized by the immediate response from the paralytic.

Slide1212 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Mark 2:12 (NIV). 

There was no denying it.  Someone who can make a paralytic walk on command was no lunatic, and even the best magic of the day couldn’t take some random paralytic person lowered from the ceiling and have him walk out in front of everyone.   There were no smoke and mirrors there.  So that leaves only one option, the man truly was Whom he claimed to be.  GOD!

The Scribes and the nay-sayers jaws must of hit the floor.  The believers including His disciples were totally amazed.  But had they actually understood what Jesus had said and done that day?

What do you think?   Had they understood?

We actually know they didn’t understand yet.  Not even Jesus own disciples understood the claim Jesus made that day.   It wouldn’t be long before His disciples would agree with Peter, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16).  But for that moment in time they were still know and follow Jesus Christ.  Becoming His disciples by becoming students of the Master.

And so are you and I.  When Jesus said go make disciples of all nations…he told us to teach them everything that Jesus had commanded of us so that they could in turn make disciples who will make disciples.  And one of the first things that Jesus wants His disciples to know is in a word: Forgiven.    Every disciple gets to hear those tender words from our Master: “My child your sins are forgiven!”(5)

For Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (cf Matthew 28:19) ALL  AUTHORITY not just some! ALL Authority to forgive sins.  The Bible says, “He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 (NIV).   This was and is and will always be the Gospel message.  My son / daughter your sins are forgiven!

Jesus is truly enough!

 



1. How do you feel about people who make outrageous claims?
2. Do you know someone who was paralyzed? What were some issues they faced?

Read Mark 2:1-12 in several versions preferably.
1. Where was Jesus when this event took place? (Mark 2:1; Mat. 9:1; Luke 5:17; Mark 7:24 at Home?)
2. What does it mean to preach in verse 2? (Mark 1:4; 6:34; Mat 5:1-2; Luke 8:1,11; Acts 8:25; Acts 16:6; * Rom. 10:8-11;* 2 Tim. 4:2-3)
3. What do verses 3-4 tell us about the individuals mentioned and their character?
4. How and why did Jesus heal the paralytic man? (Mark 2:5,10-12; Psalm 32:1-5; 103:2-3; Isaiah 38:17; Acts 11:23; Col 3:12-14; Mark 5:34)
5. What does blasphemy mean? (Mark 2:6-8; Psalm 74:18; Lev. 24:11-16; Rom. 2:23-24; * Mat. 12:31)
6. How did Jesus know what they were thinking? (Mark 2:6-8; 8:17; Psalm 33:13-15; 139:11-12; 147:5; Prov. 15:3; Isaiah 40:14; 46:10; Jer. 17:10; Heb. 4:13; 1 John 3:20)
7. Which is it easier for us to do—forgive others or care for them when they’re sick?
7. Which is it easier: forgiving or caring for the person when they’re sick?
8. What connection is there between faith and God’s working ? (Mat. 9:22 ; Luke 8:48 ; John 5:14 ; Acts 14:9 ; Eph. 2:8-9 ; 1 Cor. 11:30 ; James 2:18-22; 5:15 )
9. What is one paralysis in your life that you want Jesus to heal you from?
10. How can you follow the example of the paralytic’s friends and go out of your way to help a believer who is in need?

Exodus 14:10-17 Like learning lessons the hard way?!

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

How many of you like learning lessons the hard way? Have you ever noticed that you learn some lessons much harder than others? 

I was out flying my quad-copter-camera near Vaseux Lake this spring and had just taken off to do a sweep over a rock outcropping.  We were safely off on a secondary, and what seemed a rather private bit of a road, when suddenly I found myself distracted by a big truck coming my way.  Seriously we had been in that spot for like fifteen minutes setting up, checking wind speed, watching traffic patterns…and there was no traffic what-so-ever.  But the very moment I put my DJI Phantom 2 quad-copter-camera in the air a big truck just showed up!

Now to be fair to the Phantom 2 this was like the fourth or fifth time I had flown the copter so I was certainly a bit of a noob.  And in that split second of noticing the truck my copter turned and headed straight for a tree.   I took my eyes of it just a split second!  And disaster struck my quad-camera.

I’d like to think I learned my lesson that day but I’m sure that there will be other lessons to learn with this new type of camera along the way.  Fortunately, this lesson was not too costly.  The camera was fine and the copter had about $60 damage.  And no trees were harmed in the filming of this crash.  But some lessons in life can cost us dearly especially when we refuse to heed God’s warnings and harden our hearts in the process.

One of the greatest examples of this from HIStory is found in the book of Exodus at a time when Pharaoh’s hardened resolve to let God’s people go cost him everything.

So in today’s Scripture portion we see that even lessons learned the hard way by others can be used to teach us “to fix our eyes upon Jesus the author and prefecter of our faith” (cf. Heb. 12:2).   So if you have your Bible with you, turn with me to Exodus 14:10-17 and lets learn from the lessons they had to learn the hard way.

10  As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11  They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12  Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 13  Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14  The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 15  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16  Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17  I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:10-17 (NIV)

Slide4 “They were terrified and cried out to the LORD” (10).

And can you blame them?  I mean really?  Just look at the circumstances they found themselves in.   Pharaoh had just lost, his pride and joy, the first born son, the heir to his kingdom.  It was the final straw that seemed to break his grip on the Hebrew slaves and he reluctantly said they could go and worship their God!  He likely said…good riddens! But grief is a powerful motivator as we all know.  And one of the stages of grief that often rears its ugly head is sudden uncontrollable anger…even rage.   And to top it all off the Bible tells us that Pharaoh wasn’t the only Egyptian royally ticked that day!  Every household that wasn’t ‘passed over’ was effected.  So there was plenty of grief ridden anger driving those chariots into battle against the Hebrews.

Combine that with the fact that as they left Egypt the Israelites took with them tons of plunder; gold, silver, bronze and plenty of animals and grains and you have even more motive for chasing after them.  Sure the Egyptian people were motivated into generosity by God’s plagues (see Exodus 12:36) but that doesn’t mean they wanted to release their slaves and lose their material processions.

Along with the Hebrew slaves, also standing there at the water’s edge the Bible tells us are many others, non-Israelis, that joined with the mass Exodus also taking with them large droves of livestock (cf. Ex. 12:38).

Now remember these folks had only seen the power of the God of the Hebrews do terrible things to their lands and people.  They didn’t have the benefit of knowing and understanding God’s redemptive plan handed down through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and foretold by the prophets of old.   They got out of Egypt because the getting was good or so they thought until that storm began blowing in.

Combine all that with the fact that God himself had directed Israel’s path away from the Philistine territory which would have been the most direct route to the Promised Land and made it so they were boxed in by the advancing Egyptian army and you have plenty of reason to be afraid.  The Bible tells us that God did this detour because He knew that Hebrew slaves would have high tailed it back to Egypt the first sign of war (Ex. 13:17).  But still caught between the armies of Pharaoh and a deep blew sea these folks felt trapped by circumstances.  And they had no armies to fight back with either.

The Hebrews knew how to raise crops and herds and build edifices but they were not yet warriors.   The Philistines whose territory they avoided on the other hand were a fierce people so God was actually showing  great mercy by detouring his people towards the Red Sea.

They were exactly where they ought to be at that moment.  At least physically…perhaps not quite so spiritually or emotionally.   We know that they were supposed to be exactly there because we’re told that God Himself led them with a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night through Succoth, which was Egyptian controlled territory, and then straight to the edge of the Red Sea.  Or as it is directly translated in Hebrew, ‘the Sea of Reeds’.

Slide5

That’s modern day Gulf of Aqaba.  Today the Gulf averages 18km wide and is at it’s deepest point more than 1800 meters deep.  They have in the last century recovered many artifacts that show where Israel crossed that day.  But remember these people fleeing Egypt had no boats as they saw Pharaoh’s army and Chariots in the distance baring down on them.   They were terrified!

Because these folks were not hardened warriors, and didn’t have any avenues of escape God had effectively brought them to a point where it was trust Him or die.  It was a humanly impossible for them to escape.

So when our Scripture portion says “they were terrified”, you can see they clearly had very good reasons to be terrified.  And their first instinct was to cry out to God.  This was music to His ears!  That is the most appropriate response when we are in fear for our lives.

The Bible says,  “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17 (NIV).
Slide7Proverbs we read, “The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” (Proverbs 15:29).

David, a man who had the kings armies chase him, and had to hide out in caves before becoming King of Israel, wrote, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chron 16:11).  ).

Slide9

And Paul an apostle who was beaten many times, stoned, left for dead, ship wrecked, and who went hungry, thirsty and was imprisoned several times, wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6).

But the armies of Pharaoh were raising a cloud of dust …and their bugles were blaring and there was nowhere to go!  They were terrified!

So Israel cried out to God and then in frustration took out their fear and anxiety on God’s mouth piece, Moses, as though he was the one moving the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that led them to the very spot in which they stood.

Slide10

11  They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12  Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:11-12 (NIV)

I know he’s the leader and the buck stops with him…but really?  Did they think that his boss wasn’t listening in?  When they shouted at him were they not blaming the One who sent him?

Fear and anxiety can cause us to respond in ways that truly show those around us how much we believe in God.  In anger and rage…not much but certainly there were those who had faith in that crowd.  They just weren’t as loud as the fearful ones.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be the last time that Moses would have to deal with mob mentality run a muck.  In fact they were just getting started.  But Moses also showed some extraordinary leadership skills that day!

Unlike the newest recruit on examination day.

The story is told about “A young police officer that was taking his final exam.   One of the exam questions went like this: ‘You are on foot patrol in central Vancouver, down near BC Place, when you hear an explosion on a nearby street.  On investigation you find a fire hydrant has been taken out and a geyser of water is currently flooding an overturned van.  Inside the van there is a strong smell of alcohol.  Both occupants – a man and a woman – are injured.  You recognize the woman as the wife of your staff Sargent who is presently away on holidays.  A car stops nearby to offer you help and you recognize the driver is wanted for terrorist related offences.

When suddenly a man runs out of a nearby condo, shouting that his wife is with child and the accident has made the birth imminent.  Then you notice another man waving frantically and crying for help, having been blown into the harbor by the water geyser, and clearly he cannot swim.

The exam question was – Describe in a few words what you would do.’

The new recruit thought for a moment before writing his answer to the question: He wrote… ‘I would take off my uniform and mingle with the crowd.’” (Unknown)

But there was no mingle room for Moses that day! 13  Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  14  The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV)Slide11

His answer provided a three full response to help ease their panic and fear.  1. Having seen and been used by God to perform miracles Moses had the faith to say,  “Do not be afraid”(13).   Surely God had not done all those miracles to let the people succumb in Succoth.  To die in the dessert next to the sea!

When people are overwhelmed it often helps when you calmly remind them that they still have the ability to exercise some control in this situation. They can choose not to fear or they will have chosen to be overwhelmed by fear.

That’s  why Moses said, “Do not be afraid”.

Like King David, Moses knew, 1 The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).   Isaiah wrote, 4  say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Isaiah 35:4 (NIV).  Slide12

Moses reminded Israel, they should not fear because the Lord himself would deliver them and fight for them (cf. 13-14).

This wasn’t a matter of them bucking up courage and girding their lions for battle.  God had already demonstrated to them His mighty power.  In fact, Moses said they merely had to “stand firm” and watch what God would do.   But that’s hard for us men isn’t it?  I’m not sure how women handle it but as a man I can tell you that “being still, standing firm” is about as welcome advice as “wait upon the Lord” (cf. Isaiah 40:31).   It’s not that it’s bad advice but as a man there must be something I can do?

Am I right men?

I mean you come home and your wife gives you the look.  You think, oh oh, now what have I done?  You say hi honey?  But really your saying, what’s up?  She breaks down and starts sobbing uncontrollably. And you want to fix the situation right?  You start thinking about all the things it might have been that got her down.  And you are ready to do what it takes to fix this.  But just maybe what it takes is a hug, and a listening ear.  And the fortitude to not do anything in that moment, don’t offer any advice, just be there and be still and let her unload.  But men would much rather fix things, am I right?  Maybe I’m just weird.

But clearly there was absolutely nothing that Israel could do for themselves in this given situation.  This would require action from God!  And He was planning something much bigger than them.

15  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?”  Crying out? 

Ummm…I don’t see Moses crying in this passage do you?    We see what Moses said to the throng but no where do we hear him cry out.  Yet God heard Moses.  God heard the rather urgent plea from his chosen vessel as he tried to convince the throng.

Frankly,  I think Moses was more worried about that unruly bunch of grumblers before him than all of Pharaoh’s armies.   And just because Moses was their appointed leader doesn’t mean he’s less human then they are.  Remember he didn’t want the job in the first place.  So he may have wined just a bit to God.

God told Moses, “Tell the Israelites to move on. 16  Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground”.

Slide13Do you think Moses might have thought, “now why didn’t I think of that?”  I have this handy staff that has never let me down before.

But wait a minute…did you notice that Moses had just finished telling the people to stand firm, be still?  Wait for God’s deliverance! Seems exactly opposite of what God told them to do doesn’t it?

It wasn’t bad advice that Moses had spoken.  He had an unruly crowd that he thought could use some verbal reassurance.   But God corrected him.  It wasn’t time to be still, or stand their ground they needed to get out of dodge!

What Moses was told to say was, “move on!”  And fortunately for Israel Moses was clearly in very close fellowship with the Lord for when he heard the command to go  and stepped up to the plate reaching out his staff and the sea opened right up.

God trusted this man Moses more than most.  You know how I know this?  God took enough time to fill in the ‘why’.  Why was this lesson about to happen?  What was the purpose of it.

Why had God brought Israel to the end of the rope so to speak?

Why?  Was it so they would learn that GOD alone is their strong deliverer?   He alone is worthy of their faith!

Slide14King David would later write, 6  Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. 7  Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:6-7 (NIV)

God said, 17  I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:15-17 (NIV).

Moses was indeed right that their strong deliverer was about to amaze them and cut them off from their foes.  Israel did need to stand firm in God, and be still and know that He could do exceedingly abundantly more than they had asked.  But would they actually learn the lesson of Pharaoh and not give into bad attitudes and wicked thinking that hardens hearts and kills faith?

I believe God is still working on that one …even with us many centuries later. The only difference is we have a Saviour who has overcome sin and selfishness and who bestows upon us the gift of righteousness.  One who is able to deliver us from anything that this old world or even anything Satan  throws our way.

And unlike Israel who were caught between a rock and hard place, we have a choice to make.  We can slip back into what we think is comfortable, our old thought patterns and lifestyle, go back to Egypt or we can choose to press on to the promised land choosing to trust in our Strong Deliverer every day as He leads the way.

We can learn from their lessons or we will learn it the hard way.  But do you really like learning the lessons the hard way?

 

——— Lesson Below ———–


Read Exodus 14:10-17 in several versions.

  1. Have you ever had to learn a lesson the hard way?  Can you think of one example?  What made it the hard way?
  2. Do you like learning lessons the hard way?  Is there any other way to learn?
  3.  Under what circumstances had Israel left Egypt? (Numbers 33:3-7)
  4. Who lead Israel to the Red Sea?  (Exodus 6:1; Exodus 13:9,16,18, 20-22; Deut 26:8; Neh. 9:9; Acts 13:7)  How did He lead them?
  5. So why was Israel terrified? (Exodus 14:9;10)
  6. What caused Pharaoh to pursue Israel? (see also Exodus 7:3,13, 9:12, 10:1, 20,27, 11:10, 14:4,8; 1 Samuel 6:6; Exodus 8:15,32; 9:34 )
  7.  Was God unjust in hardening Pharaoh’s heart?   (See Acts 10:34, Psalms 33:5, Deuteronomy 30:19 and Isaiah 10:5-11).
  8. What lesson was God teaching Israel in our passage today?  (Num. 14:9;  Duet. 20:3;  2 Kings 6:16; 2 Chron 20:15-17; Psalm 27:1-2; Psalm 46:1-3; * Isaiah 26:3;  Isaiah 41:10-14; * Isaiah 43:11; Lam 3:26; Hosea 13:4; * John 3:16,17 )
  9. What lesson is God trying to teach you today?  Do you like learning lessons the hard way?

 

Mark 1:40-45 The Least of These?

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

That passage in Matthew has always caused me great concern.  I’ve wrestled with it for years now.  Especially every time I walk by a street person or drunk out begging or get accosted by the guy who stands at the corner of Channel Parkway and Eckhardt Avenue.  Lately though I’ve wondered are these the least of these that Jesus is speaking of?

So tell me.  Are people like the ones pictured here the ones that Christ was talking about in Matthew 25? Why or why not?  Are these the least of these?  What do you think?

(Zach wrote down the answers on the screen.   See the video above if interested in how we grappled with this question.)

Slide1
As I came to this morning’s passage I chewed on this story in Mark for more than a week before sitting down to write out my thoughts. And as I did my mind would keep coming back to that passage in Matthew 25, back to “in as much as you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me” (40).   Are these stories intertwined?  Do they complement or antagonize each other as it seems.

I looked at all my commentaries and many different versions of the Bible itself to see if I could better grasp why this story is included and what practical applications I can draw from it.  But every time I started to write I kept coming back to just a few questions.

  1. Are there people you find particularly uncomfortable to be around?

I don’t know about you but I find those who are physically disfigured be it through disease or accident at least somewhat uncomfortable to be around.    Now I’m not exactly sure why.  But I think it may stems from my morbid curiosity.

I find I want to really take a good look and examine what has happened that caused this disfigurement.  I want to look at  them from different angles and get right up close.  In fact I find some things fascinating that way.  But I also know, that more often than not, that starring would make the person really uncomfortable to be around me.  So for the main part I restrain my curiosity at least until I can get to know the person and hear their story.

Slide2I found that getting to know part particularly difficult when I was in Kenya though.  Since I did not know the native tongue it was often hard to even begin a relationship.  Never mind getting to know someone well enough to ask those awkward questions that would allow me to satisfy that curiosity.

And there were a few totally cool looking people that I would have been interested in finding out what happened.   I so wanted to hear their story.  Like my friend Pastor Wyjonji the bigger man pictured here.  His head and hands were truly amazing to see.  As I talked with him I found out that it was some sort of heart defect that caused some hormonal imbalance which in turn caused this wavy growth on his head and unusually big hands and body size.

When I first met him in 2011 I wasn’t sure I’d get to see him again as the heart issue seemed of major concern to him and those around him.  We prayed together and God saw fit to keep him around and a part of every visit to Fafarol since.   He is a truly amazing man, gentle and very loving!

The man next to him, pictured here, is a stock photo I got of what leprosy looks like according to some info I found.   I’ve never met him but again I’d love to hear his story.  I can’t begin to imagine what life has been like for him, can you?

Leprosy is a disease mentioned often in the bible.  In fact leprosy would from a biblical sense actually describes both of these men.  It was  used to describe many skin ailments from severe rashes to unusual deformities.  So it was not limited the same definition as Leprosy today is.

Today’s leprosy has much fewer strains and scientists now believe it all started in East Africa and spread throughout the centuries and across the continents following trade routes.

The characteristic loss of fingers and toes, facial deformity and even blindness is due to the nerve damage that the disease inflicts on its victims.  Since the nerves no longer send pain impulses to the brain, those with leprosy often don’t know that they burned or cut a finger or toe which eventually becomes infected and if left untreated falls off or requires amputation.  And though leprosy was fairly common in Biblical times this disease is still very active in our world today.  In fact in the last year or so 121 countries reported new instances of this terrible disease which is caused by a germ, or bacteria, called Mycobacterium leprae.

Even in Canada 2-10 new cases are found each year.  It is treated quite effectively today with multi-drug-therapy that takes from six months to a year to complete.  But once started this therapy quickly makes the person no longer contagious.  So Isolation is no longer necessary as it was practiced Biblically and especially practiced throughout the middle ages until about 1960.

Slide4This Island was once connected to Crete but according to historians it was dug around and eventually fortified in the 1500’s.  Being well fortified and separated from the peninsula  made this the perfect place to put people, to isolate them from the rest of the population.  And in the early 1900s to 1953 the island was used as a leper colony having housed many people with leprosy at times.

In Biblical times often the leper was simply put out of the camp, town or city and forced to live away from family and friends.  In fact it wasn’t unusual for these poor souls to lose all human physical contact if the disease was not cured.

Once the priest pronounced the person unclean, according to Leviticus 13:45-46, “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.” 

So not only was the deformity debilitating but depression must have been rampant for these social outcasts.

Which makes our Bible story today all the more miraculous and touching once you realize what this poor man had been going through.

So if you have a Bible with you open it to Mark 1:40-45 and let’s look at this passage together this morning.

 “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.  Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere” (Mark 1:40-45 (NIV).

 “If you are willing you can make me clean!” – As this man comes and kneels before the Lord the one thing that is not said by him is “I’m not sure if you can help me but give it a go”.

Slide6There was no doubt that Jesus had within him the power to heal this deadly, deforming, disease, called leprosy!

Where did this man get such faith?  How did he know that Jesus could heal?  Had he heard about all the people outside of Peter’s house that found that Jesus not only heals the sick but casts out demons?  We can only assume he did because his earnest plea was full of faith!  you can make me clean” (40).

And yet having been subjected to isolation for who knows how long, and having not had the simple pleasure of a hug in ages this dejected man did express some doubt.  Didn’t he?

It appears from what he said that he wasn’t so sure that Jesus would chose to help him.  That’s what this “if” is about.  Why is it that,  It is sometimes easier to believe in God’s power than in his mercy ?(Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 630) 

Have you found yourself there?   You believe that God can do what you need Him to do but you just aren’t sure He’ll do it for you?

Why is it that we can believe in His power but not His mercy and grace?

Slide7Somehow this man had faith that healing was in the realms of possibility.  And he certainly knew there was nothing he himself could do to get rid of leprosy.  But I believe he also knew that emotional sting along with the stench of this disease.  The sting of isolation had created doubt.  And that isolation caused him to doubt that anyone cared enough to help him at all.  But that doubt was short lived.

You got to love our Saviour’s response!  And His compassion even at a time when Jesus was trying to avoid the crowds… it speaks volumes about our wonderful saviour.

If you look back just a couple of verses (Mark 1:30-39) you’ll see that Jesus had tried to escape the growing crowds of people wanting miraculous healings.  He even snuck out under cloak of darkness to a secluded place so he could have a talk with His father uninterrupted (cf. Mark 1:36).   And when the disciples finally found him and told him everyone is looking for you he said “let’s go somewhere else!” (Mark 1:38)  But when this poor dejected man knelt before Him compassion welled up inside of Jesus.

And then He did the remarkable.  He did what no one else had done since the day the man was sent away from that town.  Jesus actually reached out …and touched the man!  That’s the miracle here.  He reached beyond his comfort zone, beyond the cultural taboos and touched a disease ridden man.

 

Now, scientists today are pretty sure that leprosy spreads through contact.  Particularly through sneezing and coughing because of direct bodily fluid contact like most infectious diseases.   And I’m sure when Moses, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, set forth the laws concerning leprosy, God already knew it spread by contact.  So there was good reason for social isolation.  So when Jesus reached out and touched this man it was not the thing to do humanly speaking.   It was the beginning of a miracle!

The fact is most of us might even find being in this man’s presence uncomfortable, never mind actually reaching beyond that discomfort and touching him.  Even though today we know that the chances of actually getting leprosy from casual limited contact are slim indeed.   And yet the stigma is still there big time.

But can you imagine for a moment the eyes of the disciples?  Of Peter, James and John as they watched what Jesus just did?  It would have been priceless to see their expressions as Jesus hand actually made contact.  Since anyone who touches something unclean becomes unclean until evening at minimum according to the laws of Moses they would have been aghast!  The Law which guided their thoughts and at convenient times even their actions was in them from childhood.   They knew that no one was to touch a leprous man!

Yet that didn’t stop Jesus, he not only reached out, touched the man but answered that man’s question, “I am willing!  Be clean!” (41).

Slide8Alexander MacLaren writes,  “People tell us that to believe in sudden conversion is fanatical. This is not the place to argue that question.” (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture – St. Mark 1-8, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 48).

Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured!(42)  It was over in an instant!  A few words of instruction and the Master was on his way.  It has taken me much longer this morning to speak about this event then the event itself took!

But do you think, even for a moment, that this man, once the leprosy was gone, wanted to do what Jesus asked of him next?

We read in verses 43-44, “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them” Mark 1:43-44 (NIV).

Funny isn’t it?  He told that man, don’t tell a soul!  And the man immediately told everyone he came in contact with.  Warren Wiersbe so eloquently puts it,

“Jesus told this man to keep quiet, and yet he told everybody. Jesus commands us to tell everybody—and we keep quiet! (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 114).

Jesus specially said to you and I, “… as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give…Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you until the end of the age…(Mat. 10:8, 28:19)…

But know this!  “…whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”(Matthew 12:50). 

Those who go and tell the Good News, who make disciples…those are Jesus’s brother’s, and sisters…  You mean like some poor leprous man who was healed but couldn’t follow the Master’s immediate orders?

But wait, doesn’t that make him one of the least of these?  As well as one of Jesus brothers? Hmmm?

Slide9

Why do you suppose Jesus said, “don’t tell anyone” to this once leprous man?  Especially if He knew that the man wasn’t capable of keeping this secret between them?   Why was that included in this passage?

Well some say that Jesus was using reverse psychology on him.  You know, if you tell someone they can’t touch something they will likely prove you wrong quite quickly.

But other scholars seem to think it was because Jesus didn’t want that kind of publicity.  He wasn’t looking to become the best magic show in town.  Jesus had come to bring salvation from God, to restore wholeness to broken humanity not just heal disease, but something far more important.

But to this man who was isolated and hurting physically, emotionally and spiritually, the sudden release from the prison he was in was overwhelming good news!  There was no keeping that a secret!

That kind of good news is just too much to keep inside!   So that man “went out and began to talk freely, spreading the good news.

There were consequences to his actions though!  It’s right there in the text.  Verse 45.

As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere”  Mark 1:45 (NIV).   

“Surely you can see how Jesus took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows …” Isaiah 53:4 (NIV)?

Slide10Did you notice?  Did you notice Who was then the one on the outside looking in?  Did you notice Who was now in a sense the outcast, the one in forced isolation?

Mark says,  “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly…he had to stay outside in lonely places!”  Could that be why He asked the man to keep it to himself?  To do as Moses commanded, and give glory to God the old fashioned way?

And yet that’s our Saviour!  He was willing to trade places so that the very illness that separated us from God could be remove once for all.  And it cost Him His very life on the cross.  And that was only the beginning as we saw last week.  He has risen!

Jesus still answers our prayers of desperation with those words that brought healing and comfort to that leprous man.  “I am willing, Be Clean!” (41).

And that kind of takes us full circle to where we started today.  Back to Matthew 25.  Back to the least of these.  Who are the least of these?  Is it the poor, the imprisoned, the outcasts?  Well, actually the answer is right there in what Jesus said.

Slide11I don’t know how I missed it for so long.  It’s not talking about those who are goats, who Christ said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ …they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:46 (NIV).  They are the ones who mocked the Master and persecuted His brothers, and sisters and even His mother!    These goats are NOT “the least of these”.

The least of these are you and I and everyone who, having been set free by the master and having gone out and, talked freely, spreading the good news, even if it meant we went hungry, thirsty, or naked!  And trust me there are plenty in foreign lands who fit those descriptions.   Many who are forced into isolation or imprisoned or beaten and murdered because of Christ’s name on their lips.   Jesus says to them as well as you and I:

 “… ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)

They are the ones that Christ said is our brothers and sisters to whom we had the privilege of feeding and clothing, visiting and even giving a cup of water in His name!  AMEN?


 

Read Mark 1:40-45 in several versions. Then read Matthew 25:31-46 and begin the lesson.
1.  Are there people you find uncomfortable to be around? Why is that? What makes you or them uncomfortable to be around?
2.  Who is Jesus referring to in the Matthew 25 passage as “the least of these”?
3.  What do we immediately find out about the man in Mark 1:40?
4.  What do you know about his infirmity?
5.  How would you define his disease Biblically? What does the Bible say about it?(see also Lev. 13:1-46; Num 12:10-15; Deut 24:8-9; 2 Samuel 3:29; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Kings 7:3-4; 2 Kings 15:5; Luke 17:12-19)
6.  Do people today still suffer from that disease? (Ask mr. google for statistics, you may be surprised!)
7.  What did the man do when he met Jesus? (Mark 1:40) Why is it easier for us to believe in God’s power than in His mercy and Grace?
8.  How did Jesus respond to the man’s faith and doubt? (see also Mark 6:34; Luke 7:12-13; Heb 1:3; Heb 4:15; Ps. 33:9)
9.  There was more than one miracle mentioned in verses 41 and 42 what were they?
10.  Why did Jesus strongly warn the man in verse 43? (Mark 7:36; Matthew 9:30; Luke 8:56)
11.  What did Jesus tell the man to do? (Mark 1:44; see also Lev. 14:2-32)
12.  What did the man actually do? (Mark 1:45) What is so funny about that? (See comment in my notes)
13.  Who actually are “the least of these” according to Matthew 25:40?
14.   Is there a person that makes you uncomfortable that you need to help this week? Who should you see in them?

Exodus 4:10-17 Reach Beyond Your Comfort Zone! He did!

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

Slide1I like this picture!  The cross is empty!  The tomb vacated! He has Risen! He has Risen indeed!  It is such Good News.  Especially when you know the risen Lord.   And know the power of His word to heal the broken hearted and set captives free from the power of sin and of death itself!  If only the good news would reach beyond the faithful on Sunday mornings it would so impact the society we live in and make it even a better place to live.

But being Christ’s hands and feet and especially giving voice to the Gospel message seems like a daunting task even as Harold’s video put it.  It’s hard enough to do it in our own neighborhood and to the people we love and care for but to reach beyond to the places where people have never heard the good news takes special determination and even the occasional miracle.

Yet the message of the resurrection and the hope it brings is needed throughout our world more today than when the good news first went forth.  In so many ways this message has been lost in the myriad of competing voices we are constantly bombarded with.  That’s why God still calls and send out His messengers to reach beyond the noise and deception.

Have you ever noticed that God has always used a partnership model with humanity when it comes to sharing the Good News?  Seriously, He invites us to come and join with Him in spreading the good news that there is freedom in Christ.  And God enables those who answer the call to step out in faith and to do things they never thought possible.

For 2016 we have been doing a survey of the Bible that shows how Christ is found from Genesis to Revelations.  Each week we look at one story found either in the New Testament or the Old and it’s been quite a journey.  Today’s Bible Lesson from HIStory comes from a time when a messenger was reluctant to deliver the message and shows us how far God’s grace reaches out to enable Moses to fulfill his destiny.

If you have a Bible along turn with me to Exodus 4:10-17.

“Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”  Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you.  You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.  He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.  But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.”  Exodus 4:10-17 (NIV)

Slide3Rented lips…that’s what I call them.  Those times when you are nervous and you know what you’d like to say but the words just come out in the wrong order or too jumbled up to make any sense.

It’s sooooo frustrating at times.  I can empathize fully the words of Paul as he writes, “For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” (2 Cor. 10:10).

No one ever said that about Jesus!  He spoke with such amazing authority and words that would cut to the heart of the matter and yet were so full of grace.  He is a natural communicator!  But I know what Paul’s talking about here.  Rented lips!

That’s not to say I don’t try hard to speak in a way that rightly conveys the gospel message, I just often suffer from rented lips.  These things get in my way!

I know good preaching when I hear it and aspire to be a good communicator but after preaching close to a thousand times…when compared to those silver tongued preachers we all have heard on radio and TV, I still suck at it!

Slide4As Paul said in 2 Cor. 11:6, “But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge…”  And like Timothy I do my best to, “Be diligent to present myself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  And so should we all for that matter for the stakes are higher than we may think.

So if Moses was nervous about being called out to bring God’s message I think I could understand his hesitation on those grounds alone.

“Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (10).  Can you hear the reluctance?   And yet doesn’t he express it so eloquently?  I’m not sure where that apprehension is coming from or who it was that he compared himself to but knowing his past something had to have set it off.  Did it stem from being heckled or mocked? I’ve experienced that enough to know it has effect on future performance.  But I don’t see anywhere in the Scriptures before Exodus 4 that tells of a time when Moses was public speaking and it embarrassed him or got him into trouble.

Slide5Some scholars say he may have had a speech impediment or some sort of a disability that caused him some grief when speaking.  But again there is no proof of that in the Bible.  In fact just the opposite!

From Acts 7:22 we learn that,  “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.  Mighty in words!  In fact he was a diplomat in Pharaoh’s court so he would have dealt with citizens and foreigners and likely in more than one language.  Sure that was more than forty years prior to our passage today but true all the same.  And even in the forty years outside of Egypt Moses would have had to learn and speak the language of the Midianites in this his new homeland.   He was one smart cookie — very knowledgeable!

Perhaps his reluctance to speak stems from being not so fluent in his mother tongue?  I read one Rabbi who said it was because Moses was not fluent in Egyptian language.  Though I find that a little hard to comprehend since that would have been his mother tongue as an adopted Egyptian.  But either way having to speak and lead a people in a language that no longer flowed from your lips would certainly cause some anxiety.

Remember he was taken as a baby into Pharaoh’s court and though he was still nursed and looked after by a Hebrew slave the time eventually came for him to be schooled.  And that schooling would have all been in the written and spoken languages of the Egyptians.  In fact for the first almost forty years of his life pretty well all he knew was Egyptian culture, customs and language.

Slide6So Moses might have felt like the current Syrian refugees feel here in Canada.  Many of them know a bit of English and may even read it but almost everything has to be filtered through their mother tongue and many dialects.   It’s like a big fence to break through.  And that truly causes one to be slow of speech for quite some time.  Don’t expect them to be here a year and be fully conversant nor even understanding of our ways.  It just not likely to happen.

Just ask my father-in-law!  Peter does very well now but when he first moved to Canada he would have agreed with Moses about being slow of speech and tongue.  German still comes easier for him even after 50 plus years in Canada!  But English took real determination and lots of frustration before he felt comfortable speaking in public.  I suspect Moses and my father-in-law had much in common that way.

But did God buy Moses excuse or his reluctance to obey?  Sure doesn’t seem like God’s about to let Moses of the hook does it? Just look at verses 11-12.   “The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:11-12 (NIV)

Nope Moses had to make a choice not an excuse.  Just like we’ll need to reach beyond those language barriers to show Christian hospitality to refugees in our land if the Gospel is going to continue to impact them.

God was reminding Moses that for Him language is never an issue.  Moses would simply have to obey and trust that the God who made him knows what it will take to accomplish His purpose.  And God made him a marvelous promise:  “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (12).

Moses wouldn’t have to rely on his own rather amazing intellect to see him through, as God would be with him.

Jesus promised pretty much the same for you and I, “…do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12).

Remember the same power that was able to raise Christ from the dead is the one that can teach you to do exceedingly abundantly more than you can ever imagine or hope.  But it still takes guts!  You actually have to step out of your comfort zone and start in the direction He gives you.

Just reach beyond your comfort zone…just like Moses did, right?Slide9

God said, “go!”

“But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Ex. 4:13 (NIV).  Moses said, “NO!”  Now that took guts!  Did he forget to Whom he had been speaking?  Was he nuts?!

I’ve seen what God can do.  A little smack down from God comes with thunder and shakes the whole earth!

And yet Moses says, “…please send someone else” (13). A little gutzy, don’t you agree?  Moses came up with:

EXCUSES!  

Truth be known I’ve been there too.  Overwhelmed and lacking in confidence I’ve declined God’s direction on more than one occasion.   And even when I think I can do the job, I’ve been known to plead with him to send someone else.  Haven’t you?

And you know what?  It doesn’t even take Him by surprise but according to what comes next in this story it may just rise His anger a bit!

Slide10I know it’s Easter and we should be talking about the loving God who when told He would have to lay down his life, said, “not my will but thy!”  And then Jesus actually went and laid down his life!  But Moses is only a type of deliverer, a foreshadowing of Jesus.

Jesus loves you so much that he’s willing to take your sins and toss them in the deepest ocean and not let you go fish for them.  His grace is so great that there is only one sin that stops Him from saving you from your stupidity and stubbornness.  But I think that sometimes even Jesus gets angry!  He still loves us but shows that love through disciplining us when we need it.

Slide11I know this because God is the same yesterday today and forever.  And verse 14 says, “Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you” (Exodus 4:14 (NIV).

Moses knew God’s anger.  Which, by the way, is why I believe that Moses didn’t have a disability or impairment of speech.  I don’t think that God would get angry at someone for having a speech impediment and being worried about stumbling over his words as a result of the impediment.  But God was clearly angry at Moses.

Remember this part of HIStory was written by Moses himself.  So when he says, “the Lord’s anger burned against Moses”,  you know he’s really saying he felt the Lord’s anger that day.

But Moses also learned something else about God in that moment.  Though God’s anger burned against Moses, this did not become a lightning bolt education for him.  In fact there is much grace to be found in this passage.

GRACE & MERCY!

God had already arranged that Moses brother, whom we presume he has not seen in forty years, was on his way for a family reunion.  And God having given every man his speech, knew that Moses would pull the slow to speech card and say “send someone else”.   So Aaron…his brother, who also was clearly hearing from God, set out to be with Moses.  Is that not grace and mercy?  Is that not cool!

Aaron unlike Moses had grown up with the Hebrew slaves and was likely still one at the time, so he would have been fluent in the Hebrew culture and language of the day.

So why not simply send Aaron and leave old reluctant Moses on the top of the mountain talking to bushes?  After all God already knew Aaron could speak well.  And clearly Aaron was not only ready to follow God but was already going where directed.  Why not just take His burning anger out on Moses and make him a little pile of ashes on the mountaintop?

Because God is slow to anger, compassionate and merciful, abounding in love he does not treat us as our sin deserves, He does not want us to perish in our sins (cf. Exodus 34:6, 2 Peter 3:9).

The Bible says, “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:3-5 (NIV).

But does that mean we can tell God where to go without feeling His anger?  I don’t think that would be wise to try that!  Our passage shows us that God in His great mercy taught Moses about thinking he knew better than God.

God said to Moses, “You shall speak to him (Aaron) and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.  He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him” Exodus 4:15-16 (NIV).

Slide13Men, anybody here got brothers?  Ladies, do you have sisters?  How well do you get along with them?  Do they already think you act as if you were God to them?   How’s that work for you?

I’ve got two older brothers and I can assure you it would take a miracle to have them speak for me and I can also assure you they wouldn’t treat me as if I was God to them.  Maybe the other way around… they certainly have at times Lorded over me.

The moral of that part of the story is be careful what you ask God for….in fact its likely better to listen and just go where he sends you!

Moses got what he asked for.  God would send someone else to speak for him.  But God certainly wasn’t letting him off the hook.  God tells him, “… take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” (Exodus 4:17 (NIV)).

The EBC says,  “There is a risk in declining the call of God; it may be a forfeiture of divine blessing even though there is grace and mercy for the obstinate (so Bush, Exodus 1:60)” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

Aaron’s family would receive the Priesthood.  And Moses would back Aaron’s words with God’s provision through that staff.  It was the power he needed to reach beyond his comfort zone and do far beyond what he thought he would be capable of.   And it was also a promise that God, can and, would do miracles to set His people free.

Fortunately for us Christ rose from the dead and is seated with the Almighty in heavenly realms.  Where He constantly intercedes on our behalf.

Hebrews 6:18-20 says, “God can’t break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable. We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.  It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God  where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us…” (Hebrews 6:18-20 (MSG).

Slide14And Jesus gave us the Great Commission, to go and tell people that there is deliverance and freedom to be found in His name.  And instead of a stick He has sent us the Holy Spirit to do miracles through us.

And Jesus even knows that our natural inclination may be to ask Him to send someone else to go in our place.  So Christ has brought brothers and sisters like the Goerzens and sent them to go and be His voice and hands and enable us to Reach Beyond our fears and help those who need to be set free.

In this next video we get a glimpse of how the risen Lord continues to perform miracles and transform lives when some modern day Disciples of Christ set out to inspire a new generation through music and lyrics.  After the video Harold & Linda will come and share more stories of how Christ continues to use their organization called Reach Beyond to touches lives around the World.

 



Read: Exodus 4:10-17 in several versions.

  1. When was the last time you shared your faith with someone?
  2. Do you tend to make excuses or do you boldly share your faith?
  3. Where was Moses when this dialog took place? (Ex. 3:1-4)
  4. Who was Moses talking to? (Exodus 4:10; Exodus 3:4)
  5. What was asked of Moses? (Exodus 3:10; 4:12)
  6. What reason did Moses give for not wanting to go? (Ex. 3:11; Exodus 4:10; see also 1 Cor. 2:1-4; 2 Cor. 10:10; 2 Cor. 11:6)
  7.  Was it a genuine reason or simply an excuse?  Why do you say that?  What Bible verses can you point to to defend your answer?  (See also Acts 7:22)
  8.  What was God’s response to Moses reluctance?  (Exodus 4:11;  Gen. 18:14;  Psalm 51:15; Psalm 146:8;  Isa 6:7; Isa 42:7; Jer. 1:9; Eze. 3:27; Eze 33:22)
  9. How does God show much Grace and mercy to Moses?  (Exodus 4:12; Psalm 25:4-5; Psalm 32:9;  Psalm 143:10; Isa 50:4; )
  10. How does Christ help believers share the good news? (Matt 10:19-20; Luke 11:1;  Luke 21:14-15; Jn. 14:26; Eph. 6:19)
  11. Who is God prompting you to share your faith with this week?

 

Mark 1:21-28 You Can’t Muzzle The Holy One of God!

Do you like dogs or cats?  It’s pretty safe to say our household is more inclined to dogs than cats.  Though I’ve had both in my lifetime so personally I have no bias against either so long as they are well behaved that is.

Slide2Well maybe I have a little bias.  It seems that there is a growing debate in our household about dogs.  Specifically if the one in the middle of this picture is even a dog?  Zach says that’s not a dog! It’s a mop that can’t stop yapping. 

Personally, I like the little ones but don’t mind big ones like Gauge either.   I just think that in the city it is unfair to coop up a great big dog in a tiny yard.  I also think that those who do may cause them to become vicious and lash out over time if they are not very careful. 

So practically speaking a little dog is obviously the way to go.  Although Lynda sides more with Zach preferring bigger dogs, even Great Danes!  You know…those that eat you out of house and home and that can even take off the whole hand in one bite of those that feed them.  Since we are so far apart on which dog is preferable we will never likely have one.

Any of you here have cynophobia? No not the fear of sinning!  Anybody here terrified of dogs?  I sure was even through my high school years, and sometimes I still flash back to those days.  Looking back I didn’t have too much reason for it either.  In fact it seems kind of irrational now.  Like most kids I had been nipped by a dog or two growing up but my fear of dogs went way beyond that healthy respect that grows from being bitten.   If I knew that a dog was in a yard on my way to school I would choose a different route, even if it made me late, seems I let fear control my route. 

Slide3This fear has occasionally affected me as an adult.  We had been warned by a Christian friend that their dog, named King, if memory serves me right, was known to bite people he did not now and even bit some that he did know. 

In fact one of the elders in my church told me of his encounter with that dog and he said he wouldn’t visit there so long as King isn’t muzzled or tided up. So on our first visit to that farm I drove the car up inches away from the door and used my snow brush to ring the bell and we waited for the owners to come out and put King away. 

The truth is that German Shepherd had a nasty temper and even bit our minivan as we drove up.  King brought back my fear of dogs and took it to a whole new height.  I’m not so sure that’s irrational as the definition for cynophobia calls for.

Since then I’ve often wondered what would possess anyone to keep such a demonic animal for a pet.  Especially every time I hear of some poor child mauled or badly bitten by a family pet. Like what were they thinking?

One day, in talking with that couple about their dog, they told me, “King didn’t start out that way”.  And when their kids were around King watched over them keeping them safe…  I thought to myself “ya he was likely just waiting until the master was out of sight so he could have them for a snack.  Licking his chops”.  But regardless of how he was back then, something had gotten into King, and the result was he became a vicious vehicle biting brute not to be trusted. 

On another visit I spoke with them after King ran out and bit my tire and left tooth marks!  I asked them why would they leave him in this terrible state and take the chance that he bites someone or maims one of their cows?   Why not at minimum muzzle him or perhaps have the brute put down?  They might just avoid a lawsuit and may even get more visitors coming their way. 

“Nothing doing, he’s family”, they said.  And besides they had a sign that said beware of the dog.  That was sufficient in these parts.  What can you say…see ya.

Why is it that people choose to live with the devil they know rather than evicting him from their midst?   And how is it that people could say they follow Christ and even throw a party to welcome Him and yet within days be found shouting crucify him?  It’s Holy Week and our daily luncheons this week will focus on many aspects of the week that changed the world. But this morning we ware looking at a time three years earlier that changed one man’s life and caused the whole city to stir with excitement about this new teaching with authority.    

And perhaps today’s Bible lesson from HIStory can help us to understand that the devil is sometimes, more often then not in the details.  Let’s look at Mark 1:21-28.

 “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out,  “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”  “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”  The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.  The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”  News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:21-28 (NIV)).

 Slide5Capernaum would become a central point for a lot of Jesus ministry and many miracles.  Today’s story actually happens three years prior to the Triumphal Entry following on the heels of calling Andrew, Peter, James and John, fisherman from that region of Galilee who became Jesus disciples. 

Since this was Jesus home turf he already had a reputation that actually spawned from the miracle that He performed at a wedding turning water into grape flavoured water (that’s the Baptist version) for the rest of us it was water into Dom Perignon!   Then, according to John’s gospel, Jesus had performed another miracle when he healed the son of a Royal Official who lived in Capernaum and so His fame spread throughout the land (cf. Jn. 4:43ff).

But on that day in Mark 1:21 Jesus showed that he had authority even over Satan and the demonic realm.  It was to be a special day indeed.  One that started where any lawful Jew would expect to find Jesus on the Sabbath.  Jesus was found teaching in a synagogue where he had come to worship God. 

Slide6 A synagogue in those days could be formed anywhere that 10 or more Jewish males over the age of twelve existed, and there was, as far as I can tell, no maximum membership except what was practical for meeting.  So once 10 males formed the synagogue, people met regularly, especially on the Sabbath, to read the Scriptures, and to hear from some Rabbis and worship God. 

As the communities grew in numbers eventually more leadership was necessary.  And in time an eldership headed by a chief elder would be appointed to direct the affairs of the synagogue and determined who should speak, read and lead worship.  But no sacrifices were done at the synagogues as that was expressly the purpose for the Temple visits throughout the year.   And when visiting Rabbis came through they were vetted by the eldership and would often be given opportunity to read or teach from the Scriptures.

We are not told what Jesus lesson plan entailed that day but it was apparently amazing stuff!  Unlike the usual Rabbinical jargon that often started with “Rabbi so and so said”, Jesus spoke with, what appeared, at least to this crowd, what appeared to be authority from God.  

In verse 22 where Mark mentions “teachers of the Law”(22) the one word most often used for that group was “Scribes”.  We often hear it in conjunction with Pharisees.  The Scribes and the Pharisees were often the ruling elders.  Scribes were men who were paid professionals well-schooled in the Law and Prophets.  Some were traveling teachers who for a price would come and teach at your synagogue. So we shouldn’t see it as weird or extraordinary that Jesus got the opportunity to teach that day.  They treated him as an expert. 

Slide7Verse 23 says, “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out…”.   He likely did look any different than the others.  He probably had come on several occasions.  May have even been a member but not necessarily so.   Synagogues weren’t for Jews alone.  In fact anyone, could back then and still can today, visit a Synagogue, even on a Sabbath, so long as they do not fully participate in the Sabbath rituals.  

Like coming to church the synagogue was a place to learn about the rituals and customs prior to conversion or formally joining that comminity.   Since a major portion of the conversion has to do with community life what better place is there than in the community to become aware of how the community interacts.

We are not told if this demon possessed man was a Jewish convert or just what he was doing there other than he was overcome by those demonic forces and began a very short conversation with “the Holy One of God” (24).  

He was clearly there to disrupt what Jesus had to say.  But God took what Satan meant for evil and turned it around as an object lesson on the authority of Jesus over everything…absolutely everything… including the demonic realm. 

Jesus never needs nor elicits Satan’s help to accomplish His ministry and in a word He puts a muzzle on the demons.  (Not on the physical man I might add!  Just on the demons inside this man.)  The demons were immediately silenced and ejected from the service but not before they would announce the mission of the Messiah. 

I say they, as it would seem from verse 24, where is says, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?”, that this poor soul had more than one occupant to be evicted.  The wording even in the Greek is in the plural.  Even though verse 26 seems to indicate that it is a single spirit that is shaking the man violently that verse doesn’t negate that there was more than one demon ejected.   

Over in Matthew 12:43-45 Jesus explained that an unbelieving generation had created fertile ground for such multiple demonic possession to occur. 

Jesus said, “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. “Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation” (Matthew 12:43-45). 

Slide9Without further interruption Jesus took authority over the situation.  Yet once again our passage today demonstrates the compassion and mercy that Jesus showed during his ministry.  This man was being used involuntarily to help Satan disrupt what the Lord was doing.  Since Jesus already had the authority to set this man free and rather than just leave him in that helpless condition, Jesus chooses to muzzle the demons and orders them to leave.  And of course not having a choice in the matter they take it out on their host by violently and with the usual demonic showmanship exit the scene looking for some other willing host to occupy. 

Mark then notes that the crowd was amazed.  Their jaws dropped!  Astonished is not too strong a word for their response to what Jesus has just done in their presence.  They have never seen teaching like this before!  And they recognize that by saying “A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him” (27 (NIV).  

Now you would think that ought to be enough to make them his disciples wouldn’t you?  

Yet later on “…Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.  “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! …And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment than for you.”  Matthew 11:20-24 (NIV).  

Three years later and a short 85 mile journey from Capernaum, some of those who spread the word far and wide in Mark 1:28 may have been in the crowd shouting Hosanna to the King of Kings. 

 My guess and I admit that’s all it is, but my guess is that a man who was once possessed by demons, but thanks to Jesus was now living free from them,  took off his cloak for the donkey to ride over on the way into Jerusalem.  And surely you can hear him “when Jesus entered Jerusalem, and the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” Matthew 21:10 (NIV). 

 Slide11That once demonized man may have shouted at the top of his lungs: “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:11 (NIV).   The Holy one of God ….the man Who set me free!

You see, having been delivered by Jesus, his house was not only swept clean but would soon be filled with the Holy Spirit and this once demonically possessed man rather than being an outcast who was consider out of his mind would be invited to partake in the wedding supper of the Lamb on the Day of Judgment.  He was set free to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! 

And now like him, you too know the authority of our Lord to set all people free.  Having tasted and seen through the power of His Word will you be like those of Capernaum who ignored the signs and rejected the miracles, or will you be delivered from the evil one and set free for that great Sabbath to come, and set free to worship “The Holy One of God”?  

Exodus 3:1-12 A burning desire to leave a legacy?

I often drive by the Hospital as I go back and forth from home to work.  And for the last couple of years now they have had this big digital sign facing Government and Carmi.  The sign flashes several messages but the predominant theme is leave your legacy, support the Hospital Foundation.

Slide1Sometimes it congratulates big donors but mostly it serves as a reminder that something special is about to happen at the Hospital and they need the message to reach the community for its support.

Soon a new tower will be built and more life enhancing and lifesaving procedures will proceed from it.  But it seems as though it can only happen if someone leaves a financial legacy, and in fact it’ll take many ‘someones’ in partnership to accomplish this undertaking.  But truth be known, even with the very generous support of individual donors, this massive project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.  So individual contributors are invited to be in partnership with those who provide the majority stake to leave a legacy this size.

According to info I found on Interior Health’s website: “The total budget for the project is $325-million. The Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District is providing $122-million, the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation is contributing $20-million (I presume that would be those donors I just spoke of) , and the provincial portion is $183-million.” (https://www.interiorhealth.ca/sites/BuildingPatientCare/PRH/Pages/default.aspx ).

The hours that have gone into planning and preparing for this substantial project are immense.  It takes vision and stick-to-itiveness to cut through miles of red tape and political maneuvering before the first shovel of dirt is moved and many more hours before patients walk in the door.  But the legacy left behind is worth it.  Isn’t it?

Will it have eternal consequences both for the donor and for the recipient?  This remains to be seen.

Last week Jimmy spoke about a different legacy that you and I have opportunity to leave for the next generation. God invites us as His partners in building this legacy that has spanned generations and will certainly last for all eternity.

Today’s passage in HIStory tells about the starting phase that began nearly four thousand years ago and has already shaped the entire world.   Yet from the start the man who was selected to cast the vision and begin the project was reluctant, or perhaps felt inadequate to take on the task.  Let’s see how the author of the first five books of the Bible responded to the call of God in his life and take courage from HIStory when it’s our turn to leave a legacy for God.

If you have your bible or tablet along turn with me to Exodus 3:1-12 and let’s see of God shaped this part of HIStory.

 “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.  So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.”  When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”  “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.  The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey–the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.  So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  Exodus 3:1-12 (NIV)

Slide3 So Moses, our man of the hour, was a simple sheep herder was he?  He had taken his flock across the desert up a mountain when he saw this unusual site.  Oppss! Scratch that.

It wasn’t his flock that Moses was looking after; it was his father-in-law’s, a man named Jethro who was the priest at Midian according to verse 1.

But wait, wasn’t Moses father-in-law was actually named Reuel according to Exodus chapter 2:18.  So is our author a little forgetful?  Or could this be a case of Hebrew words having more than one meaning?

According to the Believers Bible Commentary: “The term designating male in-laws is nonspecific. The term referred to a woman’s male relatives and could be used for her father, brother or even grandfather. Most solutions take account of this. Perhaps Reuel is the grandfather head of the clan, Jethro is the father of Zipporah and technically the father-in-law of Moses, and Hobab is the brother-in-law of Moses, Jethro’s son. Alternatively, Jethro and Hobab could both be brothers-in-law, and Reuel the father” (BBC:Exodus3).

Slide4So at best we have Moses looking after sheep that belong to a male relative on his wife’s side of the family as this chapter begins.  And that relative, who is likely his father-in-law, as we’ll see much later in Numbers chapter 10, gave him his wife, Zipporah for rescuing his daughters according to chapter 2, and clearly Moses also got the job shepherding dad’s sheep according to chapter 3.

You see, if we just went from close context to chapter 3 verse 1 we might think that’s how this story goes.  But how does a shepherd end up the author of so many Old Testament books?

The story of Moses birth and divine deliverance from the Nile by Pharoah’s daughter, not Pharoah’s wife as the Qur’an calls her, shows that Moses was favoured by God long before this trip up the mountain.

And in case you think this is a young or middle-aged Moses that scales mountains with sheep and gazes upon the bush aflame, even a little cross-referencing tells us that He was likely 80 years young. Slide5

So we have this octogenarian out on the mountain plateau herding sheep.   He may have thought his years of influence were behind him but God made it so that the most influential ones were yet to come.

Moses suddenly notices something strange, weird really.  A bush on fire but not consumed.

Some through the ages have made light of the obvious fact that this was no ordinary bush fire.  They say things like, “the light shining on red leaves gave the bush its glowing features”. Others have tried to paint similar natural reasons for this phenomena.  But clearly such an explanation doesn’t make much sense given what Moses himself thought. In verse 3 it says, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.” Exodus 3:3 (NIV).

Slide6I’m sure even Moses would have wondered what natural causes could create the illusion of fire without consumption.  And if that were the end of the story then you might begin to agree that a natural explanation could be found.  But clearly red leaves and sunshine cannot call out your name.

And did you notice?  The bush called not once but twice?  Verse 4 says, “When the LORD saw that Moses had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” Exodus 3:4 (NIV).   Why twice you may be wondering?

Do you ever find yourself so engrossed with something that you aren’t really listening?  And you don’t hear something even though there is no audio distraction or other noise preventing you from hearing?  That’s how strange and engrossing this burning bush was to Moses.  His focus was so fixed that the first time his name was spoken he hardly noticed …but the second time!  God had gotten his attention.  And get this…Moses actually answered a talking bush!

Slide7Seriously!  Moses actually answered back, “Here I am” (4).  To a bush!  What did he think?  That the bush had no eyes, couldn’t see where he was?    Here I Am?  What king of answer is that?

Well at least God had some of his attention.  But what was it that God said next?

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Exodus 3:5 (NIV).  Why on earth did He say that?  Is not the whole earth the Lord’s footstool?  Was it not He who created everything in it including mankind?  What was special about this piece of real estate?

Slide8In one word: Authority!

Like last week’s message this part of HIStory defines a boundary for mankind.  God was establishing HIS authority in Moses life.  “Take off your sandals you are standing on holy ground” (5).  But did God truly have Moses attention?    Did Moses take his sandals off?  Did he actually begin with obedience to God’s direct command?  What do you think?

Come on Wednesday or join in on Whatsapp and let’s talk.  This much I can say for today, I know when Joshua was told the same thing by a messenger of God his response was immediate.

The messenger of the Lord  “ said, “… I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.” (Joshua 5:14-15).

But why did Moses need to remove his sandals?  Could it be so that he couldn’t run away to fast? J   It may have been Holy Ground but the rocks around there must have been hard on the feet.

Seriously now, God didn’t give him a chance to run before laying out why this sudden burst into human domain had come about.

In verses 6-10 we read, “Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”

God reminded him of what he already knew, he was part of a chosen lineage.

Perhaps Moses being 80 years young thought he was past his prime to do anything of significance but God reminds him of this covenant to his fathers.  In fact we see it again and again throughout the Word.  This reference to relatives long since buried goes back to the covenant God made with Abraham.

In Genesis 17:7 we read, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” Including but not limited to this one named Moses.

But even before him back in Genesis 26, God spoke to Isaac, a son of Abraham, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” Genesis 26:24 (NIV)

And remember we saw a similar thing with Jacob too the week before last.  This constant refrain continues until the LORD Jesus Christ, (also a descendant of Abraham) who not only uses it as a reminder but as a proof of the resurrection of the dead.  In Matthew 22 Jesus is quoted as saying, “… about the resurrection of the dead–have you not read what God said to you,  ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Matthew 22:31-32 (NIV)So this greeting is not like “hey, how’s it going?  Or “How are you?” God is reminding Moses he is a part of the chosen ones.

As Moses hears this reminder his response is immediate.

Slide12Verse 6 says, “At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.”  (You might say, now God had his full attention!  But are his sandals on or off?  This hiding of the face thing continues as we saw a couple of weeks ago even down to the Mount of Transfiguration and is pretty well a common reaction of humans to the supernatural.

Later on Moses will learn that it’s good not to stare God down when God tells him, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Ex 33:20).  But somehow Moses instinctively knew that a gesture of humility before God was the right one to make at that time.

Then, after having Moses full undivided attention, “The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey–the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.  So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:7-10 (NIV).

Surely God has the right man for the job.  After all we’ve already established that Moses was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter.  Who better for the job than an Israelite that was raised Egyptian, right?

Slide14But look at Moses response!  “… “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11 (NIV) This answer is certainly not like what Isaiah said, “Here I am, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).  It’s just the opposite.  Though Moses said, “Here I am” he was literally saying and would say again to God directly, “send someone else”.

Why such a response from this man who obviously has generational faith to draw upon?

To answer that question you need more of HIStory.  You need to read how Moses had already tried to help those very people.  How he fled from Pharaoh’s court escaping the death penalty some forty years earlier for having killed an Egyptian who was beating an Israeli.   You’ll see how that gesture of support on Moses side was not only rejected but mocked by the same people God was now sending him to deliver.

This answer was not spontaneous rejection of an idea, it was forty years of agonizing over what went wrong that took him from, enjoying a life of leisure in, Pharaoh’s court to herding someone else’s sheep in a mountain meadow and of course responding to a talking bush.

You will also find that having grown up in Pharaoh’s court meant that Moses was a well-educated man who enjoyed the finer things of Egypt.  Until the day he let pride and anger get the best of him.

Moses knew he had blown it back then in a fit of rage.  He knew what evil he was truly capable of having killed a man and burying his body to cover it up.

Moses was not being irreverent nor was this the answer of a tired old man full of self-doubt.  Though it may well have been those feelings being inadequate to do the job that we all experience at times.

Moses question truly pondered how a man with his past performance record could be given such an opportunity and huge responsibility. “Who was he, that he should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”(11).

Slide15And God immediately answered his query,… “I will be with you.”  Like don’t worry!  It’s not like I’m expecting you to go it alone.  “I will be with you!”(12)  Those worries, and regrets, past failures, the baggage Moses not only packed but carried all those years was not an issue with God!

Though this was a new calling to an old place it came with a new promise! The God of the universe, God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who never left them despite their imperfections would not leave Moses alone.   The God Who makes bushes light up and talk would be with Moses every step of the way?  What more could Moses ask for? With God for him who could stand against him?

Isn’t that just the same as Jimmy ended last week’s message?   Jesus Christ had given the disciples their marching orders:  “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV).   It’s your calling and my calling regardless of our season of life, regardless of the disappointments and failures we’ve experienced along the way. The command and calling and even the promise remain the same.  “He will never leave you nor forsake you” (cf. Heb 13:6) for you have been called for a divine purpose.

“Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (1 Cor. 5:19-20).

God sent Moses to reconcile His people and bring them out of bondage.  But to what purpose?  So they could live high on the hog?  Or so that they could trade places with the Egyptians and be cruel masters?

Well as I saw it in our passage the words just leapt off the page.  See if you they do for you?

“And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:12 (NIV).    Did you get it?  Did they leap for you?  The purpose of our salvation and deliverance from evil is worship!    The sign of Mose’s legacy was when the people rescued from Egypt enjoyed a mountaintop experience with God.

Slide17Two millennial later a woman and Jesus were having a chat one day.  The conversation quickly went deep.  Deep as only God can do.  The woman had lived a tough life.  Married four times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband.  She was pretty messed up and feeling real uncomfortable about her life but all of that was about to change as she heard from the Master this same purpose for her life.

The woman said to Jesus, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”  Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 

You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:20-24 (NIV).

The truth is worship is a burning desire God has placed deep within us but unless you choose to walk towards that burning bush and investigate it, you will never hear your name spoken by God nor realize when it’s time to take off your sandals and experience Holy Ground.  But when you do worship God in spirit and in truth, you know you are leaving a legacy that transcends time.