Month: April, 2015

“The Shepherd is Calling”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

In my life I’ve been known as many things. Growing up in North Dakota I was known as the kid who could sing because I was sort of a novelty at weddings and funerals for those who thought a young boy singer was kind of unique. Going to school I was seen by many as the class clown, how I got that moniker I’ll never know. Later I was known as the AAL rep because that’s who I worked for. I’ve been the boss, the director, the actor, the elder, the Deacon, the Vicar, the Pastor, the baker, but never the candle-stick maker. In my life, I have been identified as many things.

But I often wonder, what people really see in me. Do they see me as a Godly man? Am I someone they think they can trust? Am I seen as easy to talk to and share problems and joys with? Or do other people simply see someone who is just going through the motions? I guess we never know the answers to these questions until we’re told.

There have been many who have succumbed to the mystery of who they think other people see in them. I’ve known many an anxious person who has knotted themselves up in worry over who other people might think they are. It can ruin a person’s life.

One’s identity is sacred to some. They will do almost anything to protect it. They want the world to see this idealized version of them, so they put on any mask they must to make an impression.

In our Gospel lesson this morning, we are enlightened to read of one of the most popular images we see in our Savior, that of the Good Shepherd. So, if Jesus is the Good Shepherd He must have some sheep, that’s the role we play. We are the sheep. Sounds kind of nice. When I envision sheep I imagine a rolling prairie of green grass and wild flowers with gentle sheep quietly munching on the bounty of the land. I imagine animals with thick coats of wool jumping over wooden fences gently lulling people to sleep by its peaceful scene.

In reality however, being called sheep isn’t necessarily a compliment. Sheep are stupid and stubborn. Ever seen a sheep in a circus doing tricks? No, because there too simple-minded. You can teach elephants to dance, you can even train a lion not to bite down when you have your head inside its mouth but sheep are good for nothing else but to eat grass and provide wool. Their dirty, rebellious, always wondering off somewhere they shouldn’t while getting lost in the process. They are easily frightened and confused, defenseless and totally dependent on others for guidance and protection. So, when the Bible says that, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray,” that’s not a good thing.

When Jesus Christ looks at us, He sees sheep. That’s not a compliment either. What He is saying is that we share many of the same attributes as the sheep mentioned earlier.

When Jesus gazes upon His flock He does so with compassion and concern because He knows that, on our own, we would be lost. History has proven countless times that mankind definitely needs a shepherd.

When Jesus compares us to sheep, He has good cause to do so. Sheep, if not moved rather constantly, will stay where they are until every blade of grass is gone. They are not creatures of change. In this way we can relate also. Many of us have a certain restaurant we go to all the time, we might have a certain chair at home we always sit in, or even a favorite pew at church that you can always find us during worship. When we come into church and someone is in our spot, there is always that little time of panic as if there is no place else to sit.

So, I think Jesus describes us pretty well. We are like sheep in almost every way. And like sheep, we are helpless without a Shepherd.

Like a Good Shepherd, Jesus is concerned for our well-being and He wants to protect us from the evil that lurks all around us. He wants to keep us on a straight path always there to help us from getting lost in the world. Like any Good Shepherd, Jesus loves His sheep and wants the best for them. Like sheep, He wants us to depend on Him for everything.

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus makes a distinction between the Shepherd and the hired hand.

The hired hand cares nothing for the sheep. He is content with doing what he has been assigned to do and nothing else. When he is not with the sheep, his mind is on other things. He doesn’t own the sheep so he worries little about what happens to them as long as a few are left so that he might have a job to go to. If the sheep are attacked, he thinks of his own safety first.

But Jesus describes Himself as the Shepherd. The good shepherd is the owner of the sheep. He has a special place in His heart for them because He has a special relationship with them. He knows every sheep by name and does not see one sheep above another. In return His sheep trust in Him and know His voice.

A man in Australia was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep but the man protested that he didn’t steal the sheep, it belonged to him. When the case went to court, the judge didn’t know how to decide the matter, so he asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he ordered the plaintiff to step outside in the hallway and call the animal, the sheep made no response. Then the judge asked the defendant to step into the hallway and call the sheep, when the accused man began to call the sheep by name, the sheep ran towards the door because he recognized his shepherd’s voice. The judge said, “He knows the sheep and the sheep knows him…case dismissed.

Before my sermon, we sang the song, “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us.” I picked that song because that what Jesus has committed Himself to, to lead us slow-witted, dirty and rebellious people. Though we constantly loose ourselves in other pastures, He watches over us to gentle bring us back to His fold. Because of His commitment to us we have come to know His voice and those with faith follow that voice all the way to the gate that leads to heaven. He laid down His very life for us as any Good Shepherd would. Together we make up one flock and we have only one Shepherd.

It’s no wonder, then, that the angels came first to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Savior. They would get it because they, like the Savior, cared for the sheep. If their sheep’s wool would get full of thorns and bristles, they would anoint the sheep with oil to sooth its wounds. If they were thirsty, they would lead them to water where they could drink. If they were brought into the pen, the shepherds would lay across the doorway so that they might be protected from unwanted intruders.

When Jesus faced the cross on Calvary, He knew just what to do because His sole purpose in life was to protect His flock. As He hung on the cross, He also protected the gateway so that we might not succumb to the terror lurking to destroy us.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for you and for me so that we might have life and have it abundantly. He is the Good Shepherd who knows us all by name just as He knows the Father and the Father knows Him. He is the loving Shepherd who decides the fate of those He loves.

Jesus’ story did not end at Calvary because death could not overcome Him. In verse 18 Jesus says, “No one takes (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it up again.” That same authority assures us of His protection and His guidance even in our darkest hours.

Imagine what life would be if the Shepherd were not there. If Jesus had not risen, what would our life be worth without a Shepherd to look after us? Who would fend off the wolves of the world? Who would lead us to the right path? Who would find us when we were lost? Praise be to God, we do have that Shepherd. He had the power to overcome death and He promises us that same blessing when we follow the path from this life to the next.

Because the Good Shepherd lied down His life for us, a new covenant was enacted between us. The old covenant saw sheep sacrificed for God and the new sees God paying the price with His life for us.

We are not asked to offer ourselves up as martyrs like the terrorists think they must do to gain favor with God because, through His death, we achieve life and life abundant. Any God who would ask His flock to tape a bomb to themselves to kill others cannot be the God of love we worship. Instead, our Lord defeated death itself so that we might live.

We know who our Shepherd is, but do we know what Jesus see’s in us, His sheep? Does He see those who listen for His voice? Is He constantly having to find us time and time again because we go astray? Do we seek His protection are do we make ourselves to be a tempting target for the wolves of the world?

Our shepherd died so that we might live and He rose again so that His flock would never have to leave Him. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who loved us enough to face Calvary so that we would not face eternal death. He continues to guide us to everlasting life together with Him. He guards the gate so that we might enter unencumbered with the weight of the world.

He knows your darkest secrets and your greatest fears. He rejoices in our happiness and covers us in our troubles. He does everything the good Shepherd should. When we look at Christ, we see our Provider and our Protector but what is He seeing in you?

Maybe you look at yourself and you don’t like what you see. Maybe you’re ashamed of the mistakes you’ve made in life so you try to hide them so even God cannot see. Maybe you realize that you don’t hear the Shepherd’s voice all the time like you should. We all have our things in life to deal with but the Shepherd never turns His back on us because of them.

For all of those who take the time to listen, no matter what condition your heart is in this morning, softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling. The Good Shepherd is calling His sheep asking them to come home. We have a hallowed Shepherd urging us onward. I pray that we all enter the gate as worthy sheep. Amen.

 

 

Bible Study Questions – John 10:11-18

Bible Study Questions – John 10:11-18

What is Jesus implying when He calls Himself the Good Shepherd? Psalm 23:1-6; 28:8-9; 80:1; 95:7; 100:3-4; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 34:11-12, 23;.Verses 11,14,17

What are some things that show us that Jesus was a Good Shepherd? Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 5:21

Does “laying down one’s life” for others mean only physically dying for them? Explain

Name some other shepherds in Scripture? Exodus 3:1-6; 1 Samuel 17:34-35

What makes for a bad shepherd? Jeremiah 10:21; Zechariah 11:17; John 10:8

What would happen if Jesus had done the same?

What/who are some of the “wolves” in this world that we must be protected from?

How do we come to “know” Jesus?

In what way are sheep an appropriate analogy of man? Isaiah 53:6

Explain the statement in verse 16, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” Isaiah 56:6-8; John 11:51-52

Why is unity important? Ephesians 2:11-22

What does verse 18 harken to? John 19:11. What does this say about Jesus?

How is a pastor to be like a shepherd? 1 Peter 5:2-4

Jesus sets a high standard for a shepherd. Should qualifications for church leaders (sometimes called “under-shepherds”) be much higher than that of the “sheep” they lead?

What characteristics of a good shepherd are important to you?

What kind of flock are we to be?

“Do You Believe?”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

How many of you know who David Blaine is? He’s this amazing street magician who seemingly defies the laws of nature and logic. A street magician is one who does magic up close. I was watching some of his stuff on u-tube and he does things that truly look real but are really just tricks. For instance, in one trick you could swear he’s pushing a pin through his arm. You even see it coming out the other side but when he has someone pull it out, he shows them that’s theirs no puncture wounds. In another He has someone think of a playing card. He then has them inspect an orange to make sure it has not been tampered with, then he cuts the orange and the card is wrapped up inside it. You want to believe but you know you shouldn’t because it’s all just a trick. It’s sometimes hard to grasp that it’s just entertainment, and not reality.

This makes me wonder what many people were thinking when they saw the risen Christ. Is it real or just a really good trick? Was this only an illusion set up by skilled magicians?

Do we believe that He has risen or don’t we? I wonder what some of us would have thought had we had the same experience.

We go through the same kind of questions today. Is Scripture inspired or is it just the writings of man? Is Jesus alive today or isn’t He? Is God listening to my prayers or does He have more important things to do? Is the devil real or just something made up to scare us into submission?

There are many today who have questions. Some believe but it’s kind of a blind faith, they believe because that’s what they’ve always done, still they have unanswered questions. Some don’t believe because His life doesn’t make sense to them because it’s not what a normal person would have done.

I think most of us in this room would truthfully say that we sincerely believe Jesus is who He said He was. We believe in the virgin birth, the miracles, the resurrection, the casting out of demons and His death on a cross, even though there are some things we don’t know. We believe because the Holy Spirit has led us to believe, not because we have all the answers. Because of this we have found a certain peace even though we don’t know everything.

In this we are no different than Christ’s closest disciples. Even they had questions after the resurrection. The same kind of questions we would have had. How can this be real?

Earlier in this chapter of Luke is the episode of Jesus walking with the two men on their way to Emmaus.

They were kept from recognizing Jesus at first but then their eyes were opened and they knew that the Savior had risen. They believed but they didn’t recognize Jesus for who He was at first.

Some didn’t believe, in part, because it seemed too good to be real. There are so many today with the same dilemma. They’d like to believe but it all seems so unlikely. They like what a life in Christ offers but they just can’t find the evidence to sway them from unbelievers to believers.

Of course, Jesus knew that his resurrection would be hard for mere mortals to grasp. He knew that some things were meant to remain a ministry. In 1 Timothy 3:16 Paul acknowledges this telling Timothy, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” All these things are hard to grasp because they are Godly things.

In our Gospel lesson Jesus acknowledges His disciples unbelief saying to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” He knows their limitations so he gives them proof of who He is.

But even after the evidence it says that the disciples, “still did not believe for joy.” Sort of when you get awesome news and it’s almost too good to believe.

And so it goes with many people today talking about Jesus, Christianity or even religion in a general sense but not really grasping Jesus as the living Son of God. I think they want to believe but something is keeping them from recognizing Him for who He is. The want a saving faith but they have no idea where to place it.

So what is it that keeps us from believing in Jesus as the risen Lord even when all the evidence leads to it? It’s the world. More than that it is the devil working in the world that keeps us from believing.

1 John 2: 15-17 warns us of this saying, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

It’s the logic of the world that keeps us from believing in Godly things. It is the cravings of the world that make the unbeliever who they are. Its worldly advice and worldly teachings that bring about worldly results, coaxing many into worldly ways.

The world therefore has to say, “no” to Jesus Christ because Christ paints a very different picture then that of the world.

 

A man once asked preacher D.L. Moody, “Now that I am converted, must I give up the world? “No,” answered Moody, “You need not give up the world; if you give a ringing testimony for the Son of God, the world will give up on you pretty quickly. They will not want you around.” That’s because for us as Christians, the world is not our friend because it teaches those things contrary to our faith in Christ.

Of course God knows this so He offers us advice through His servant Peter. In 1 Peter 5:8 it says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” God knows our limitations so He gives us those things, such as Scripture, to guide us back onto the narrow path.

Jesus says in verses 25-26, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” Because the weight of the world drags us down sometimes and screws up our thinking, we bypass the greatest tool that God has given us in His Word. We weigh those words with the chatter of the world and we don’t know what to believe. We then given up on trusting anything as if that could be the answer.

If I were to ask you today how many read their Bibles every day I think we would all be shocked at all of those who could not, in truth, raise their hands. Yet, the babbling of the world seems to be an unending stream of negativity and gossip that so envelopes us we can hardly hear over the shriek of it.

George Barna wrote “The State of the Church” in 2002. Barna conducted a survey of professing Christians and here’s what He found about their knowledge of the Bible. Remember, these are those who profess to be Christians:

48% could not name the four Gospels

52% cannot identify more than two or three of Jesus’ disciples

60% couldn’t even name five of the Ten Commandments

61% thought the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham

And 71% thought that the saying, “God helps those who help themselves, was found in Scripture.

It’s no wonder that many don’t believe. It’s no surprise then when so many have questions. They don’t know the story, so they don’t believe.

When Jesus rose, the disciples didn’t believe because they either didn’t know or they didn’t trust in God’s inerrant Word as spoken by the prophets. God had already given them every clue. He had already sent them those who would prepare them, yet they failed to see the truth.

Do you believe the things that God tells you or do you need the kind of proof the disciples received? Do you believe the message of Scripture or are have you drowned in the waves of worldly advice? Do you believe what Jesus says? Do you believe in His message? Or are you still waiting for further proof? Your very life hangs in the balance, believe it or not.

There are some who believe the Bible

And some who believe in part

Some believe with reservation

And some with all their heart.

But I know that its purpose

Is firm and true always

It is tried with precious silver

And it means just what it says

It is strange we trust each other

And only doubt our Lord

We will take the word of mortals

And yet distrust His Word

But, oh, what light and glory

Would shine o’er all our days

If we always would remember

That He means just what He says.

 

When told that Jesus was alive, the disciples remained skeptical. They failed to take God Word seriously. They wanted to believe, but they couldn’t discount the fact that it might all be an illusion, the easy manipulation of grief-stricken followers. But, in the end, the disciples finally figured it out. They finally understood the message and the teachings of Jesus were finally making some sense.

He promised them again the Promise of the Father and He is offering the same to you. But it means that you must no longer trust in worldly logic to tell the story of Christ.

Faith in God is about trust, trust in His promises, trust in His resurrection and trust in His guidance. It’s about a passionate belief in the story of Christ as told throughout God’s Word. It’s about a kind of peace that brings understanding from things that are foreign to the world.

God invites you now into conversation. He knows that His world is very different from the one we are forced to live in so He has made preparations by His Holy Word to guide us to the truth, a truth that cannot be found in the world.

God is calling you to greater things and He’s eager to tell you all about it. And when you learn, He wants you to guide others to that place where truth is found.

Believe what Jesus tells you and keep your ears and hearts ready to receive His call. The same promise He offered His disciples is available to you right now. What are you going to do with your belief? Are you going to keep it to yourselves? Show the world where faith is found. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Study – Luke 24:36-49

Bible Study – Luke 24:36-49

Why do the disciples show fear when Christ arrives? What are they thinking?

What does this scene say about Jesus the Messenger?

How was Jesus able to get in the room unnoticed? Acts 12:9-10

When Jesus says, “Peace to you,” what is He really saying?

Did Jesus return from the dead (The realm of the dead)? Deuteronomy 18:9-11; Isaiah 8:19; Luke 16:31

Why does He question the disciples about their doubts?

What did the disciples’ reactions reveal about their understanding of what Jesus had told them earlier about His death and resurrection?

 

What does it mean to disbelieve for joy?

 

Jesus once again told them the prophesy beginning with verse 46, why should they have already known this? Psalm 16:10; Luke 9:22, 44; 17:25; 18:31-33; 22:37

Was this purely because of a lack of faith? Luke 9:43-45; 16:31; 18:31-34; 2 Corinthians 3:13-16

Why is it good for us not to understand Scripture sometimes?

Why was it especially significant that Jesus had a physical body of flesh and blood?

What was significant about Jesus’ eating a piece of fish?

How does this scene (eating the fish) compare to the scene in Genesis 18 and 19? Genesis 18:1-8; 19:1-3

Why does Jesus remind them of what has been written of Him in verses 44-49?

How does this prove Jesus to be the Christ? How else did He prove He was the coming Messiah?

What should be preached to all nations? Why? Verse 47\

What is the promise of the Father?

What does it mean to be clothed in power from on high?

“Jesus in Our Midst”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Some time ago a lady went into an ice cream shop in Beverly Hills, Ca. to buy an ice cream cone. She was shocked when Paul Newman walked in and stood right behind her. Although rattled, she was determined to maintain her composure. She paid for her ice cream cone, then confidently walked out. Outside, she realized she didn’t have her cone. Not wanting to look foolish, she waited a few minutes before reentering the store. When she didn’t find her ice cream cone at the counter, she paused to contemplate where it could be. A soft tap on the shoulder interrupted her thoughts. She turned to find herself face to face with Paul Newman. He politely suggested that if she was looking for her ice cream cone, she might look in her purse. Obviously, Paul Newman had a big impression on the lady.

But what about Jesus? What kind of impact has He had on us, on our country, on our world? Even on human history?

 

Historian Henry Bosch has pointed out: “Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3, yet the influence of Christ’s 3 year ministry is greater than the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all time.

Jesus painted no pictures; yet, some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci received their inspiration from Him. Jesus wrote no poetry; but Dante, Milton, and scores of the world’s greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music; still Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the music they composed in His praise. Every sphere of human greatness has been enriched by Jesus Christ.” Even without Him there in person, these great men were inspired by what they knew of Him. He influenced them so that they could influence the world. His presence in the world has never really left.

So imagine this great man who inspired so many to do so much now wanting the same from you. How do you show your Christly inspiration? What happens when Jesus shows up in your life? In our Gospel lesson we read about Jesus’ disciples huddled together behind locked doors in fear of the Jews. Why did they fear the Jews? We can only speculate.

We can imagine that now that they had gotten rid of the leader, the Jews would be looking to get rid of His followers. It may have been because they were now without Christ to protect them. For whatever reason, even after having walked with Him for the last three years, even after having heard that He had risen just like He said He would, they could not put their full faith in Him. So they were scared.

But then Jesus shows up in their midst offering peace not once but twice. When things looked hopeless, their Savior came. Though He could have berated them for their lack of faith, He understands their struggles and thinks of them first. Though they showed signs of not caring for Jesus Christ before themselves He comes because His concern for them is paramount. And when His presence was there with them, everything changed. No longer were they afraid. Their fear had turned to gladness.

It’s tempting to believe that He held a special place for them in His heart because of the special relationship He had with them for the last three years, and that is why He appeared to them in their time of fear and sorrow. I’m sure there is some truth to that. But it is also very important to understand that His presence in their hopeless condition was no more important to Him then His presence in our lives when it seems that hope is gone.

Our Savior loves and cares for us every bit as much as He did for His disciples. He understands our limitations and our weakness just like He did theirs. He knows that sometimes we too huddle in fear when our faith seems low and he wants to make the same kind of difference with His presence in our lives as well.

And you can be assured that His presence in your life will lead you to greater things. With Christ’s presence comes a sense of peace the world is not equipped to give. An everlasting peace that the world could never comprehend. Jesus offers His disciples peace first in verse 19 and then again in verse 21 because he wants to reassure them that with their faith comes peace, in fact, in offering His peace He is asking for their faith.

The kind of peace that Christ offers cannot come from positive thinking. There is no drug that can bring you to that sacred place. It’s not something you can buy or barter for. It can only come from Christ Himself. It is precious gift from a loving Father.

Whenever I think of the peace of Christ I think of the episode of Him with His disciples on the stormy sea. Waves are crashing all around and it seems to the disciples that all hope is lost. They were fishermen after all and they knew a deadly storm on the water when they saw one.

In their fear they approach a sleeping Jesus wondering why He sleeps at such a perilous time. They say, “Do you not care that we’re perishing?” And in the height of the storm, Jesus calms the waves. In the pinnacle of their fear, Jesus brings peace, a peace they could not have comprehended. That same peace that surpasses all understanding is the same kind of peace that Jesus offers us.

Peace, like the peace that is possible through faith in God, can only be achieved through reconciliation with the Savior. Heavenly peace is found in our covenant with God. It is a precious gift that no one but God can give.

Paul understood that the church in Philistia was going through the same struggles in their search for peace so he wrote in verses 6 and 7 of chapter 4 of his letter to them, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your heart and mind.” This is a promise from a loving God through His faithful servant. The peace Paul speaks of is actually a term used in warfare. It’s the kind of peace you get when someone watches over you, standing guard against any threats. It is God’s peace standing guard over a troubled soul.

Not only will the presence of Christ in your life bring you peace, but it will change how you look at the world. Until Christ rose from the grave and then rose again into heaven, the disciples were confused. They listened to the stories but its clear they didn’t clearly understand them.

What do you mean He’s risen? How can someone be sealed in a tomb after death and then be seen alive again? We know He died, we saw it. How could these rumors that He is alive be true?

That’s why He showed them the marks on His hands and His feet. He wanted them to come to an understanding of all He had told them He must do to save the world from their sin. He wanted them to get some clarity from the lessons He had taught them. It was after He showed them the evidence of His crucifixion that their hearts were glad. Just like us, they sometimes got stuck in their ignorance. In this case their obliviousness to the true meaning of Christ’s resurrection brought them fear until they could see for themselves that it was true.

Jesus gave them a whole new perspective when His presence was there with them. That same perspective should be shared with all of us that put our faith in Him.

But we, like the disciples, fear those times when it seems like Jesus isn’t there to answer our call. We start to doubt like Thomas did, even after hearing the evidence. We’re fickle creatures in need of proof. Unfortunately, we only accept proof if God works in our favor. When things don’t go well for us, He seems far away and we tremble in fear that we might be placing our faith on a dream. When His presence is obvious in our lives, we are glad to be given such a strong faith. We fail to realize that God presence has been there from the start, in good times and in bad, in sorrow and in joy, in doubt and in faith.

When Jesus stood among them in His glory after death, they started to put the pieces of His ministry with them together. Because of His presence, their perspectives changed, their understanding was strengthened and their faith was renewed. They knew that Jesus had died a most horrible death. They knew He was pronounced dead and placed in a grave that had been sealed very thoroughly. To them it was the end of a very tragic story and because of it their very existence was in jeopardy. They tried to find comfort from each other in their peril but it was fleeting. And then Jesus was there and along with Him their comfort. They went from disillusionment to comprehension, from defeat to victory.

It’s always good to do a funeral for someone who had an obvious faith in God. More often than not you can find proof that they were prepared, excited even, to meet Jesus face to face.

It brings the family comfort and hope after death that their loved one’s life is really not over. That’s what I mean by perspective. They understand their place in God’s kingdom and they also understand that everlasting life is theirs upon the promise from the Savior.

When Jesus showed up in the midst of His trembling disciples, it renewed their purpose and gave them a clear direction.

In verse 21, Jesus reminded them that their work was not finished telling them, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” There is a total transformation of every disciple in that room just because Jesus was in their presence. They were paralyzed in fear and then, in an instant, focused on their purpose.

Jesus gave them a reason to go on just like He does for us. As His present day disciples, we have that same calling to be sent out into the world with the Good News of our resurrected Lord and the blessings He brings. After Jesus showed up He lit a fire in their cold hearts and He gave them a reason to live. Just like He has changed the world so He changes all those who put their faith and trust in Him.

And what a change! These feeble scardy cats were transformed into men who faithfully followed Jesus to a martyrs death. Their shaky faith had found solid ground and could not be moved.

Their fear and trembling had been transformed into bravery and determination in their calling. They had finally found the greatest of things to believe in.

When Jesus is allowed to work in your life that same power can be yours. In verse 22 it says that Jesus breathed on them and said to them, receive the Holy Spirit.” The power of God is seen in His Spirit, the same Spirit He offers to you and to me.

As baptized believers, we receive the same blessing as the disciples received when Jesus breathed on them. That same Spirit comes to dwell in all believers so that he might equip you with the strength and faith you will need to face the world. He gives us power over our weaknesses and help in our struggles.

God has made His presence to dwell among His people so that we might be given the same gifts that His disciples received. Jesus is right here, right now, ready to take you to those places He has planned for you. May we always understand His influence on our lives and in our world and may we too be transformed from frightened followers to dedicated disciples. Amen.

 

 

Bible Study Questions – John 20:19-31

Bible Study Questions – John 20:19-31

What was the atmosphere of the room before Jesus entered the room? How about after? Why?

Why did they fear their fellow Jews? John 7:10-13; Proverbs 29:25; Philippians 1:12-14

Why didn’t Mary’s testimony of Christ risen from the dead seem to matter to the disciples? Luke 24:9-11; Mark 16:9-11

What was unusual about Jesus’ entrance into the room? Why was this? 1 Corinthians 15:35-44

So why does Jesus have to retain His wounds? 1 Peter 2:24

Why did the disciples need to hear Jesus’ words and why were they repeated? Vs.19, 21

In verse 22 it is written that Jesus breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit. What does this remind you of? Genesis 2:5-7

What do you think “breathed on them” means? John 14:15-17; 2 Corinthians 1:19-22

What happened to the disciples because of this? Acts 4:1-3, 8-12

Verse 23 can be confusing. Taking the Scripture verse into account, what do you think it means? Luke 5:21-26

How is this spiritual authority exercised by Christ’s church? Matthew 16:16-19, 18:15-20

Why do you suspect Thomas was not with the others cowering upstairs? Hebrews 10:23-25

Why did they wait 8 days to meet again (This would have had them meet on Sundays)?           Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2, 16-17

When Jesus finally saw Thomas, what did He ask Thomas to do? Why? Verse 25 What does this tell us about Jesus?

Why didn’t Thomas believe, even after the other apostles and women told him that Jesus had risen?

How does the story of Doubting Thomas, speak to rebellion, passion and change?

According to verses 29-31, why was the Gospel of John written?  What is the fundamental question of this Gospel? (Hint: it is not, “Who is Jesus?)

 

“We’ve Got Good News”

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Last week I confessed my addiction to the news apps I have on my smartphone. I find myself wanting to know every little detail. What puzzles me about this need for information is that I do it despite my frustration that I rarely find anything good. Just this week we’ve had an investigation into a pilot who crashed his jet into the side of a mountain killing all those on board. Iraq is in the midst of a battle against an evil group called ISIS to win back control of one of its cities. The United States and Iran are at an impasse over negotiations having to do with Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Hillary Clinton is being investigated as to why she was using a wrong server for sensitive government information sharing. Storms in Europe, arguments over gay rights, Muslims killing Christians…the bad news never seems to stop.

And if we look back into history, the story isn’t any better. As long as there has people having to live with each other, there has been bad news as to how we continually mess it up. I think I must be a glutton for punishment. What did the president say? What is congress doing? What is the world up to? Who’s slinging the mud? Who’s being naughty? What is the latest dilemma? To tell you the truth, I’m getting tired of all the negative stories.

I need relief from all the greed, the disregard for human life, the terrible state of humanity and how capable we are to make each other’s world a living hell. I’m tired of all the name-calling and backstabbing. I’m sick of all the dishonesty, jealousy and hate!

That’s what makes this Sunday, especially, so welcome to so many, because this morning I only have good news to share. That’s what the word Gospel means, Good News! It’s good because it shows us how to find peace in a world of chaos. It’s good because it tells the story of the one who came to save us from the world. It’s good because it offers all those who believe it everlasting life.

The Bible has been the best seller since they started to record such things. Over 6 billion copies have been printed. It’s sold this well because it’s full of Good News. When you get tired of all the negativity around you, the Bible shows you how to cope and in whom to have hope. We need to open them more often. We need to take notes. I promise you, if you do, your world won’t affect you nearly as much.

 

Our Gospel lesson for this morning can be a little misleading if you fail to read the rest of the story because it ends with the women trembling with fear, afraid to share the story of what they had just encountered. We shouldn’t be too hard on them because what they had just experienced was super natural. I’m sure we would be a little freaked out too.

But we rejoice because we know the rest of the story. We know the greatest of news is yet to come for them. In fact, the rest of the story is the greatest news for all of us who believe.

The news departments of almost every television station dub themselves eye-witness news. They want to be the first to break a story because it makes them look more credible and on top of things. The women who went to anoint Jesus had different ideas. Their first inclination was to tell no one. They didn’t realize just how good their news was. Fear had won the day and it would stay that way until Mary saw Jesus alive for herself.

Upon the news of Jesus’ resurrection everything changed. Without Jesus defeating death, there would be no Good News to share. In fulfilling His promise to rise again, Jesus Christ changed the world forever. Because He rose, the world of bad news was witness to the greatest news of all. Because He rose, those who had followed Him were transformed from skeptical disciples to devoted Apostles.

 

In Acts chapter two, Peter tells the wondering crowd “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Because of this testimony from Peter and the conviction in his voice hundreds were converted. In a single speech filled with the Good News of our risen Lord, the Church was started when the Holy Spirit moved the hearts of all who heard the message.

That same Holy Spirit yearns to do the same for you. It is not the news of the world that will bring you to salvation, only the Good News of Christ can do that.

That Good News didn’t start with Peter, however. I think it’s good to note that the Good News of Christ’s resurrection came first from Mary, a woman of lowly estate. Jesus chose Mary Magdelene to be His first witness. When women were seen as little more than child bearers and servants, Jesus chose Mary first to receive the gift of the greatest news ever given. Long before women were thought of as intellectually equal, long before they were given the same rights as men, the King of kings and the Lord of lords chose to reveal Himself to a woman.

Even then, Jesus did the right thing instead of the social norm. He was radical before death and He remained radical after death.

And Jesus Christ continues His far-reaching ways by sending His Holy Spirit to us to lead in making a drastic change in a fallen world. He expects us to do the unexpected like He did. He challenges us to make the uncomfortable comfortable and to make the hopeless filled with hope.

Upon hearing the Good News, it took a while for the disciples to believe it. It was such Good News, in fact, that they couldn’t grasp on to the fact that it could be real. Even after Jesus told them He must die and rise again, they remained skeptical. All four Gospels record the disciples negative reaction to the resurrection. Matthew remembers an atmosphere of fear, turning to joy only after they witnessed Christ themselves. Luke writes of astonishment and puzzlement. Our Gospel in Mark records disbelief and then a change of heart. Maybe that’s why Jesus went to Mary first.

Of course this is very natural because news this good had never happened before and hasn’t again since then. It’s almost too good to be true. Even today, many have a hard time grappling with it because we’re too used to the bad news and skepticism of the world.

It’s Good News because with Christ’s resurrection we received a promise fulfilled.

It’s Good News because it proves that all Jesus was telling us is true. It’s Good News because just as Jesus died and rose again, so have we died to sin, rising again to the newness of forgiveness and everlasting life. Jesus took all that was wrong with the world and died so that He could make it right. He brought in a new covenant of mercy and compassion between God and those of us who believe. The Good News is that our Savior lives and He wants us to live forever at His side. It is comfort for the stricken and hope for the despairing.

Everything Christ did, he did with us in mind. No matter how marginalized you are, no matter how far you’ve fallen into sin, no matter how badly the world has treated you, no matter how much you’ve been laughed at, spit on, or harassed, no matter how lonely you feel or how insecure you are, God is calling you to be His child. Jesus Christ wants you as you are and He offers you hope no matter how hopeless you think you might be. He longs to change you into that person He molded you to be even before you were born.

And that is the example Jesus gives us that we must follow. The Good News of Jesus Christ is too good to keep to ourselves. There are millions of people who have yet to come to grasp with what Jesus is truly offering them. There are scores upon scores of people who are looking for the answer only Christ can give.

And that is our challenge, to share what we know to be true with the rest of the world who has doubt.

We need to be like Jesus and seek out all those with messy lives, it is up to us to follow His example in reaching out to the outcasts, the poor, the disenchanted and the disenfranchised. We need to find those who have been hurt by “the church” so that their faith in Christ might be renewed. There is too much bad news in the world making its way into our homes and we have the greatest news of all to share.

God is calling you to hear the Good News. He is asking you to trust in Him more than you trust in the world.

There is too much bad news in the world wearing everybody down. Let’s make a difference by sharing the best news of all, the good news of redemption and forgiveness giving us the opportunity for a new life in relationship with a loving Father, the good news of an everlasting life free from the worries and sins of the world, the good news of transformation and faith.

If you needed a reason to celebrate I hope I have given you one. Our lord loves us with a kind of love we could never imagine, the kind of love that would have Him willingly face the cross so that we might be free. The promise of Jesus will not add years to your life, but it will add life to your years, it won’t make all your hardship go away, but it will change your life in wonderful ways if you let it.

Jesus Christ is offering you the hope of Easter. Because He rose we will also rise with Him in heaven on the day that the Greatest News ever given will once again be realized. You are truly loved so come to expect the unexpected as you make a new start of faith. Alleluia, Christ is Risen! Amen

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Mark 16:1-8

Bible Study Questions – Mark 16:1-8

The earliest manuscripts end Mark here. If this is truly the ending to Mark, why would he end it in such a way?

Considering the above question, why would the additional verses have been added later?

Jesus foretold His death numerous times Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:32–34. Why was the empty tomb so shocking to them then?

Why did the women visit the tomb? What does their action indicate?

Why didn’t they think about the stone until they were almost there?

Why do you think Mark chose to describe the man in the white robe as a young man instead of an angel?

In verse 6 the ESV version reads, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.” The Greek reads as a title, “The Crucified One (“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One).” Why would this “title” be proper? 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; Galatians 3:1; Revelation 5:12

Are angels always depicted as male? Zechariah 5:9-10

Why does the angel single out Peter as the one who is especially to be told about Jesus’ resurrection?

Why do you think the women chose to tell no one, even after being told to do so? Verse 8; Mark 4:39-41; 5:15, 30-33; 6:40-50; 9:5-6; 10:32

The story implies that Jesus had better things to do then to hang around in an empty tomb until someone came. What do you think He went to do?

Why would Jesus choose to go to Galilee to meet up with His disciples? Mark 1:14, 28, 3:7, 15:40-41

Should the disciples have known to meet Jesus in Galilee already? Mark 14:28

How were all three persons of the Trinity active in Christ’s resurrection? The Father: Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34; 17:31. The Spirit: Romans 8:11 and The Son John 2:19-22; 10:17-18.

Why is the resurrection the central pillar of Christian faith?