Month: June, 2015

“Desperate Times”

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

Please pray with me…

It is said that desperation can make a person do surprising things. Today’s Gospel lessons contain two stories of people who came to Jesus out of desperation, one with a dying child the other with a chronic medical ailment. Both were at the end of their rope. Both didn’t know where else to turn so both reached out to Christ Jesus in their despair and both were rewarded.

In one of his books, Benjamin Disraeli said of desperation that it “is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.” Though we often think of desperation in the negative sense, we see in our stories that, out of desperation sometimes comes a cure.

Both the characters in our story came to Christ because they needed a miracle. One, named Jairus, was a ruler in the synagogue, the other an unclean woman. Two people from opposite ends of the societal spectrum but both with an urgent need.

Desperation comes from emptiness. When there seems to be no answer to the problems we face. Some go so far as to end the desperation the only way they know how, so they take their own life. Others turn to negative things to dull the pain like drugs or alcohol. But desperation can also motivate us to do the right things.

In our stories, both Jairus and the woman came out of a desperate faith to the only person they knew who might be able to meet them in their time of need. From their desperation came a sort of courage, the ability to see past the dangers to a possible solution. In their case, desperation served them well.

Jairus, a ruler in the synagogue. A man who probably at one time saw Jesus as nothing but a troublemaker. We can imagine him in meetings with the other rulers devising plans to stop this charlatan, this Messiah wanabee. Then His daughter falls ill and, so far, no one has been able to give an answer as to how to make her well again. In his desperation He reaches out to Jesus hoping that the stories he has heard are true. Maybe He is a miracle worker…maybe He can heal my daughter. No longer is he a ruler, now he is a dad willing to look past anything if it might mean that his daughter will live.

The other is a woman with two serious strikes against her, especially in the world she lived in at the time of Jesus. First, she was a woman and women were seen as lesser beings then men in many ways. They were to serve man and honor man by their devotion. That the Savior would come to her rescue must have seemed to her as having a minimal chance at most. He surely had more important people to attend to. Maybe if I just touch His robe.

Her second strike comes in the fact that she is a woman with chronic bleeding. Blood was seen as unclean at this time and this meant she was unclean always and an outcast in her own town.

Two people who had little in common but desperation. Both reached out to Jesus Christ in their time of need. In their desperation they went to the only place by which they might have some hope.

Contrary to the way most of us view things, desperation is not necessarily a bad thing at times. We have gotten used to letting the world define things for us. In its worldly definition, desperation is for the weak and something to be avoided at all costs. But when we look at it from a divine prospective there are many blessings and even promises of God that cannot be obtained apart from being desperate.

It is Christ’s will that we reach out to Him with the same desperate faith that Jairus and the lady did. It would be His will that all of creation would reach out with some measure of desperation to fill the wide gap between Him and us, the wide gap between what God has made available to us and what God expects of us compared to where we’re actually at.

It’s actually rather puzzling. As Christians we can see through God’s Word all that is available to us, but yet it seems we only reach for the promises when were desperate enough.

Too often we search for the world’s relief first. We think, if we can just do it with our own strength and ingenuity than that’s where we’ll find our greatest satisfaction. So we try and we try until there are no more worldly answers to search for. Only then do we rely on Christ. Only then do we bend the knee. Only then have we become desperate enough to do so.

When we look at the world today and all the troubles it’s facing or even as we look at the turmoil in our own lives both great and small, there should be a certain emptiness that accompanies it. When we see so many people searching yet unwilling to find their answers in Christ we should feel a kind of hollowness in recognition as to how far we have fallen from our Savior’s side. As we witness the decline of society where evil has become good and good evil, it should stir in us a feeling of desperation. The kind of desperation that will lead us to turn to God for the guidance to do something about the problem. Desperation because we have recognized the need for God’s Holy Spirit who has the power to reach the lost, heal the hurting and deliver the oppressed and because we know that only God can give the world what it’s lacking.

Pastor Terry Sisney said of the desperate, “Blessed are the desperate: for they will tear off the roof if and when it’s necessary, they will push through the crowd to find their answer.

They will sit at the master’s knee looking for a few crumbs of hope. They will give up their dignity, break the barriers, lay in the dirt or climb a tree just for an opportunity to call on Christ to come to their aid. They have gotten past the arguing and their own stubbornness and have come to the only one who might give them a solution to their problems.”

Yes, blessed are the desperate for if it were not for them, the full presence and the Power of God would never have been revealed in our churches at all. It is not religion or ceremony or tradition or methods or programs. It is not even preaching or singing that brings the full power of God into a church. It is the desperation of her people to reach out to God in their time of need. I can preach the most beautiful things about Christ but the words will never find their fullest power unless they are listened to with desperate ears. Our service might be filled with the greatest of liturgies, but unless the people come with desperation in their hearts, the ceremony will mean very little even to the point of boring us.

Jesus Christ came to give us hope and hope is the very opposite of desperation. Hope is the only thing that can fill our emptiness.

Psalm 142: 5 reminds us where to go when desperation hits.

It says, “I cry to you, O Lord; I say you are my refuge my portion in the land of the living.” In Psalm 50:15 God says to us, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.”

God is calling on desperate hearts to hear His words of hope. He is asking His children here on earth to reach out to those who, in their despair, search for the answers only He can give. He is counting on His church to be the example, telling all through their words and actions where to go when desolation comes.

Our Savior died because He received a desperate cry from His people to be saved and He rose again to give us the only kind of hope that could fill the empty void in our hearts. Upon hearing the cries of Jarius in his misery, He answered the call offering hope, even to someone who, before this, most likely didn’t believe. As the woman desperately reached out to the Savior in faith that even His cloak would contain His glory, He cured her. Two people who had little in common. Two people who placed their faith in Jesus Christ in their time of greatest need and He gave them the fulfillment of a promise to answer the prayers of the faithful.

We look at our world and how it seems to be crumbling morally around us and we realize we are indeed in desperate times.

We look at the state of our church in America and we see a church that is not desperate enough. Even in our own church, desperation has given way to complacency in many ways. If we want to make it through desperate times then we must come to God with a desperate faith to help us weather the storm. Desperation beyond comfort, beyond reputation, beyond tradition. We must be desperate enough to risk ridicule, desperate enough even to risk failure.

If, in your faith, you find no desperation then I ask you to check your faith. If you haven’t been able to risk anything for Christ, even your reputation and your livelihood then I ask you to look at your life and ask yourself how much Christ is a part of it.

Jesus Christ calls on us all to come to Him with a desperate faith with the understanding that only He can give us what we yearn for most of all. He is asking you and I to come to Him with the same kind of faith that led Jairus and the lady to come to Him when it felt as if all were lost.

You have heard it said that desperate times call for desperate measures. Well, today we face those desperate times. Praise God that he is big enough and powerful enough to hear all our desperate cries. Praise God that He loved us enough so that through the death of His only Son we might have the promises that empower a desperate soul.

These are desperate times for us here at Redeemer and we are called to reach out to Jesus Christ in desperate faith. May you come to understand just how urgent the call is and how much Christ is needed in our anxious state. And “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13) Amen

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Mark 5:21-43

Bible Study Questions – Mark 5:21-43

Look at the structure of these two stories. The story of Jairus (verses 21-24 and 35-43) “bookends” or “sandwiches” the story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (verses 25-34). Why did the Mark intertwine these two stories of very different, desperate people who encountered Jesus in the crowd?

 

What insights and observations can you make about despair, hopelessness, faith, and Jesus from the two stories in this passage?

 

What do you learn about the obstacles to faith through the reaction of the disciples, the men who told Jairus his daughter was dead, and the mourners?

 

Jairus seems to have walked right through the crowd. How was that possible?

 

What do you think Jairus, the distraught father, was thinking and feeling when Jesus was distracted and delayed by this woman in the crowd who touched His cloak and then was healed?

 

Why was Jesus unconcerned about the delay?

 

Name another time when Jesus delayed healing someone that resulted in death. Did He delay for a reason in either case?

 

Why does Jesus insist on knowing who touched Him in the crowd? Did He not know the answer? What was the result of this question? For the woman? For the crowd? For the disciples?

 

How must the woman have felt suffering through this illness for 12 years and what might she have learned in that time?

 

Why do you feel she thought she had to sneak up on Jesus?

 

Compare and contrast the way Jairus and the woman approach Jesus for healing in the midst of their desperate situations. Why the difference?

 

Why did Jesus tell Jarius not to tell others about his daughter’s miracle, yet wanted the woman to publicly acknowledge that she had been healed by touching Jesus?

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Storms & Tranquility”

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

Please pray with me…

I don’t get a lot of chances to watch television but when I do I try to watch something that will teach me something. I figure, if I’m going to sit and watch the tube, I should at least get some educational benefit out of it. One of the shows I have come to be most interested in is a show called Intervention. It’s about people who have fallen into some kind of addiction and how their family intercedes to get them treatment.

One such show had a man on who seemed to have everything, we’ll call him Steve. He owned his own successful business, had a loving wife and children and a strong family history of closeness and affection. As life went on, however, Steve’s luck started to change. His business became stagnant, which caused his marriage to become strained. His brother died and on top of all this, he had turned to drugs to try and ease his pain. The more he depended on the drugs, the farther away he drifted from those who loved him.

The things that Steve and his family were going through could be summed up in four words, “The Storms of Life,” which brings us to our Gospel lesson and the topic I want to touch upon this morning.

 

All of us have times that are more difficult and challenging then others. We have all experienced our own storms. Whether it’s a bad crop or a death in the family or a thousand other things, we’ve all felt the pain of life experience at one time or another. We’ve all needed help getting through the hard times. Some, like Steve, turn to God’s that are ultimately harmful and by a god I mean, whoever or whatever you put your trust in.

Others, like the disciples, seem confused as to where to go to stop the struggle. In their inability to save themselves, they panic because it seems as if they are all alone, helpless to fight against the hurricanes of life.

Our Gospel lesson teaches us something about where to go when the storms of life hit our shores. After studying this section of Scripture, it’s not hard to find some major pointers to help us survive the storms, clues that we can apply to our own lives, things to teach us where to go when the realities of life have confronted us.

First we have to realize that the storms WILL come, some large, some small. Even if our lives seem perfect now, we need to be prepared at all times to face the storms that will inevitably come our way. It only takes a split second for your life to change dramatically. One minute everything is calm, the next you’re in the eye of the storm.

Life is going just as you planned and then it’s flipped over. You lose your job like so many have recently, your 401k is destroyed because of someone else’s dishonesty, you experience the unexpected death of a loved one, your child is in an accident, a flood destroys your home, the list can go on and on.

For the disciples in our Gospel lesson, it wasn’t a spiritual storm they were concerned about at the time, it was a physical one. When they left the docks everything was fine, yet it only took a split second for everything to change. The winds picked up and the waves were crashing against the boat. It must have been quite a storm because, even though they were experienced boatsmen, the disciples were afraid. They found that when the storm comes, so do emotions of fear, anger, frustration and uncertainty.

And through it all, Jesus remained calm. In fact, the disciples find Him sleeping through it all. Jesus knew that there was nothing to worry about.

He was modeling the faith He wished His disciples to possess.

If we know that the storms will come, we have to ask ourselves, “How are we going to deal with them when they do come?” Are we going to hide in a corner, hoping that all the struggle will magically go away? Are we going to run, hoping the struggle will not follow? Or have we already been given a place to go when hardships find us?

Our story tells us that when the storms of life come, we should never lose hope. It reminds us to take the storms we experience in life for what they are, temporary struggle. It’s important to understand that life will test us and our faith, so we need to find a way to keep that faith in Christ strong, even when the fight with life looks hopeless and the tests seem insurmountable.

So when the storms of life come we must remain focused. When we are challenged with difficulties in life, it’s so easy to lose our focus on the important things as we try in our limited capacity to make sense of all things both great and small. In our confusion we tend to forget the really important things and the tasks that we need to accomplish because the small things seem easier to deal with. And isn’t that how Satan traps and entangles us?

 

By putting other things in your life to break the focus, Satan tries to change the goals we have set for ourselves to more selfish and damaging aspirations. That is why we need to stay focused on Christ when the storms of life hit.

It’s important to remember what it means to have faith in Christ, because with that faith we can weather the storms of life. With faith in Christ we remember and are assured that no matter how bad things get, the storm will, one day, pass.

I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a storm that stuck around, never to go away. I know that sometimes when it’s particularly cold and rainy outside, as it often is here in NW Washington, it can seem like forever, but what eventually happens? The SUN comes out, the temperature rises and the rain goes away for a while. It happens every year without fail. And before we know it, the storm has passed as quickly as it came. We can always take hope in the fact that, no matter how bad the storm, it will pass.

Jesus’ disciples saw the same things. They thought the storm would be their doom and they saw no end to its fury. They thought the storm might last forever, or at least long enough to bring them to their own end. But what do we see in this story?

The SON, and here I mean the SON of God comes out and calms the winds and the waves, and the storm they were so worried about is over.

It seems this mimics life doesn’t it. We forget about God until the trials of life come, and when they do we run to Him for help. Save me Lord, calm the winds, smooth out the waves.

Why do we do that? Because we already know in our hearts that Jesus will always be there for us. He will always be there to calm the winds and smooth the waves of our lives. He will always be there to strengthen and protect us.

We are assured of this by the sacrifice He made for us and in the resurrection and ascension that proved His divinity. It’s a pity the storms have to come for us to realize that sometimes.

But I have another question for you this morning, one just as important as. “Who will you go to in the storms of life?” My question is, “What are you doing with Jesus after the storms have gone?” Here is the answer that I hope you are prepared to give me, “I have faith and hope in Jesus at all times, good and bad.” You might ask yourself, “why should I turn to Jesus, the storm of life has passed?” Well, the storm might be over, but Jesus is still there for you, because Jesus is always faithful!

When the storms beat against the boat, Jesus remained calm. He was the truest example of faith. And when the storm passed, Jesus was still there. Just because Jesus is there in the storms of your lives, doesn’t mean that you can’t look to Him in the good times as well.

We shouldn’t only go to God to ask for His help and guidance in the bad times, because He also wants you to come to Him when times are great with thanksgiving and joy. He wants to share in your joy as well as your sorrows. When He says, “I will be with you always,” that’s just what He means. He means always and forever.

When I read this story I am reminded of the poem by Mary Stevenson, that many of us know well, called “Footprints in The Sand.” I think it’s appropriate to read it now:

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was only one.

 

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, it was then that I carried you.”

Many people feel that the greatest phrase in this poem is the last one with the Lord saying “it was then that I carried you.” And while I agree that this is a wonderful phrase, it’s not the best part for me.

The best part to me is during the rest of the times of the person’s life when there were two sets of footprints in the sand. Those two sets of footprints remind me that the Savior is always there beside us, to guide us and to walk through life with us even when times are good. Through it all, Jesus always remains faithful.

Now to the rest of Steve’s story. When the family got together with the intervention expert and confronted Steve to seek treatment, he made the right choice and accepted the offer given him.

Since then everything has changed. Steve has remained off drugs, his business was revived, his marriage was strengthened and his relationship with the rest of his family has begun the healing process. Even better, he rediscovered his relationship with Jesus. Steve summed it up this way, “when everything was going great, I thought I could do everything on my own. I thought Jesus was only there to help me through the bad times. Now I know that I can find strength from God in both good times and bad and all I need to remember is to put my faith in Him.”

Steve found the answer he was looking for. When the storms of life hit, he remembered to put his faith in Christ, because he’ll surely be there to help us in our time of need.

 

But Steve’s story also reminds us that when the storms pass, it’s important to work on keeping our faith in Christ strong, because he’ll help us put our lives back together, strengthening and encouraging us along the way. Let Him into your life in both good times and bad. I challenge you to make Jesus a part of your life always.

As God’s people of Redeemer, God asks us to be examples to those who look to us for strength and guidance.

So many are experiencing the storms of life at this very hour and they need Jesus to help them through it, just like we do when we face our own storms.

Through it all, God remains to show us the path to everlasting life and through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection we have been assured of our coming salvation. Every moment in life is a cause for celebration. Where will you go when times are good? Amen

 

 

Bible study questions – Mark 4:35-41

Bible study questions – Mark 4:35-41

How did the disciples react to this storm? And what did many of them do for a living? Mark 1:16-19

So how strong can we surmise this storm was?

What similarities do you see between this passage and Jonah 1:1-16?

 

Explain the differences between the reasons that motivated the sailors to wake Jonah and the disciples to wake Jesus.

What is significant about it being “evening”?

What is Mark telling us by his use of the phrase, “just as he was?”

Why do you suppose Jesus chose to sleep at such a perilous time?

Are you ever annoyed when it looks like God is sleeping and ignoring the situation that has “swamped” you and threatens to drown you?

Why do you think the disciples wake Jesus up?

The Greek grammar of the disciples’ question (verse 38) expects an affirmative answer, so we might translate it: “Teacher, you do care that we are perishing, right?” Was this the correct way for the disciples to respond? Why or why not?

Did they want Him to calm the storm or to take cover?

What is the significant about “other boats” being with them?

Why are the disciples still “terrified” even after Jesus calms the storm? (The original Greek describes them even more terrified then when they feared the storm)

What and why did the disciples ask each other the question in verse 41?

Tell us of a time God blew away your concept of Him by a display of His power.

Read verse 40. After their brush with death, Jesus doesn’t comfort, but rather scolds His disciples. Why is He so hard on them?

Is there evidence in the passage that Jesus meant to enter this storm as a test of the disciples’ faith? Verse 37

How would they have responded if they had had faith?

In what areas of your life are you tempted to respond with fear rather than faith?

“The Miracle Worker”

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

Please pray with me…

So, what exactly is a miracle? The definition according to dictionary.com is, “An effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.” That sounds about right.

If that’s true, then you and I have been surrounded by so many miracles, they’ve become common place. The whole universe is a miracle in its order. Human reason has produced the thought that it should be a place of chaos, so now science is looking for dark matter to explain everything. The earth is a miracle in that it seems to have gotten beyond all possible human reason to be able to support life. Today in our Scripture lesson we hear of the miracle of plant growth, how out of one tiny seed a large bush can grow.

And finally, to see God’s greatest work, we have but to look into a mirror. The fact that we even exist is a miracle.

Each and every one of us is a miracle from feet that should not be able to support us to our eyes that are so complex they have yet to be explained.

Our God is a miracle worker and we see His miracles every day, in every blade of grass growing in the dirt and in every person we meet.

Our God has shown His omnipotence in His miracles that go well beyond human understanding.

I wonder what our ancestors thought when they contemplated such a question. In many ways it was easier for them because they were apt to take things on faith. They didn’t have science to cloud their minds. To them, these miracles were a proof of God.

When they realized that out of a tiny seed would come a mighty bush, they gave credit to the creator. That was all the explaination they needed. They knew that our God is a God of miracles, so they gave Him all the glory for His creation.

It really is neat to think about isn’t it? That from a handful of tiny seeds you can feed a village? I know that with a few zucchini seeds you can grow enough zucchini to fill the back seat of a car.

Even those with advanced degrees in Agronomy still marvel at the miracle housed within a tiny seed.

They have found that the number of variables that have to go right every time just to get something to grow is astronomical, yet blade after blade the grass reaches toward the sky. Miracle after blessed miracle.

Inside that seed is locked a kind of force and when this force is released, it accomplishes it purpose nearly every time.

The seed becomes a plant that can in turn become framing for a house or food for cattle, in fact, out of these tiny miracles, the world is fed.

And all this leads us to our Gospel lesson in Mark 6. You may ask, what has all this to do with me? The answer is actually quite simple. Like the planted seed, God’s Word has the power to create something awesome. As His Word grows within in us, it changes us and helps to form us into God’s image. From faith in that Word, God prepares us to be like the blade of grass and reach for the sky.

At one time, that Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Our God of miracles became one with us on earth and He displayed His great power for all to see. In giving site to the blind and strength to the cripple, He fulfilled for all of us the qualifications of a miracle worker.

In Matthew 11: 2-5, we see that miracles were proof of Christ’s divinity. It says, Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.

 

 

The miracles we see every day are proof that God exists. Every flower tells the story of Christ, every blade of wheat speaks to the Father’s love for us, every tree is an illustration of His power, the miracle of every person gives testimony to His unlimited grace.

When the Spirit plants the Word in us, with proper care it germinates to become something beautiful. Those who trust in the Word of God become witness to a miracle as they feel that seed begin to grow. And from that first seed planted comes many more that produce a crop of faith and from that crop of faith, we are able to plant seeds of our own in hopes of producing a crop of new believers in Christ.

This is the Good News that Jesus was so eager to share with us. As the Word made flesh, Jesus continuously planted seeds through His parables in the hope that all would hear and believe. In this parable, Jesus Christ reminds us how the Word of God, the power of God, interacts with us. It proclaims to us that through faith can come something spectacular.

 

As you and I grow in our Christian faith, that first seed is still working within us to produce more and more. Unfortunately, much of the seed offered to people is not allowed to germinate because so many fall short. The Word of God means nothing to them, Jesus Christ is just some figure in history. They have closed their ears to the truth and have accepted lies in return. Their trust is put in worldly things and worldly ways.

They don’t have the benefit of God’s Word producing faith because they have become their own God’s devoid of any Word to guide them.

These are the people that Jesus came to save. He came to save the lost, the forgotten and the disenfranchised. He did so by offering them hope. He gave them a reason for living and something to look forward to. His ultimate goal was to save the world from the sins that had bound them like slaves and criminals.

He did this by offering them the Word. In every precious story He illustrated those things that will lead us to glory. In every miracle he gave reason to believe. In every teaching, He prepared the way of salvation to anyone who would listen.

And His Word is still effective today. Hopefully you are here today because you believe that God’s Word can still work miracles. Hopefully you’re here today because you understand that the Word made flesh came to us to guide us and die for us so that He may provide for us the miracle of everlasting life.

There is nothing beyond what our God can do. Miracles to us are everyday things God because He is the source of all miracles. By His Holy Spirit, He instills in us an understanding of His authority. By faith we follow Christ because we believe that through the miracle of His birth and the selfless act of His death, we will receive the wonders of heaven.

We live from miracle to miracle as Christians and we wait with anticipation for the next one to arrive so that we may grow even stronger in our faith. We grow because of the seed that was planted with in us by the power of Gods Holy Word.

Christian growth can only come by allowing that Word to work its miracles within us. Every time we come for worship, we water that seed planted deep inside us so that it might blossom. In every personal devotion and Bible Study, we are helping our seed grow from something dead to something full of life. Through Christian fellowship and teaching, we see the Word exposed to produce a crop of conviction and belief. Every time God’s Word is planted in our lives, it takes root and grows.

If you are sitting here today and this all seems foreign to you, then you might need a little more watering. If you still wonder what all of this has to do with you, then I invite you to dive headfirst into God’s Word. Let Him direct you to greater things.

 

The Good News that so much of the world turns a deaf ear to was given to us by a loving God who wanted us to experience an abundant life that is ours because Jesus thought enough of us to die and rise again so that we might make that abundant life last forever. God wants our roots in Him to run deep. He wants our stems to be strong and fruitful. It is one of the many gifts He wants us to receive. A gift He wishes us to share with others.

If you don’t come to church as often as you should, make it a priority. If you’re not involved in a Bible Study find one or start your own. If you don’t take time to read Scripture every day then get yourself in the habit of doing so. God has much to tell you and many seeds he would like to see grow in you, but if we never allow ourselves to be fed, soon our plants will wither away.

God invites you to find your rest in Him. He wants you to reach for the sky knowing that anything is possible for one who puts their faith in trust in Christ. He invites you to let His Word grow in you so that you too may flourish. He has many more miracles to share. Are you ready to grow? Amen

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Mark 4:26-34

Bible Study Questions – Mark 4:26-34

Jesus uses the mystery of seed germination as an illustration in this passage. What hidden natural process most fascinates you?

How do these processes point to God?

What different aspects of planting do these two parables (verses 1-20, 26-29) emphasize?

Who does the “man” represent? The “seed”? The “ground”? The sleeping and rising of the man who does not work the land plus the seed sprouting on its own? The soil with seed in it producing fruit? The “blade,” then the “ear,” and then the “full grain”? The “harvest” being ready? The “sickle”? The fruit allowing/offering the opportunity? According to Dr. Voelz

When will the sickle be used? Revelation 14:15

How can the verses found in Isaiah 55:10-11 help us in the understanding of this parable?

What does this parable tell us about the power of God’s Word?

Compare this first parable in verses 26-29 to the parable taught in Matthew 13:24-30. What are the similarities? What are the differences? How do they fit together?

Why doesn’t the farmer know how the seeds sprout and grow?

Tell us of a time that God’s Word was working on you “night and day”, as Jesus says here.

How does the parable of the mustard seed illustrate the kingdom of God?

How does the size of the seed give churches like Redeemer a ray of hope?

Who are all the other garden plants?

What do the large branches symbolize? Ezekiel 17:23; 31:6; Daniel 4:1719.

Why do you suppose that Jesus only spoke to the crowd in parables? Do 4:11-12 and Isaiah 6:10 explain it?

“It Takes Faith”

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

Please pray with me…

On Monday of this week, Cheryl and I had the pleasure of attending Emily’s baccalaureate. It was held at the Christ the King church in Lynden and it was really a neat thing to see. After the kids marched in they had a video showing the audience pictures of the kids, first the baby pictures and then them as seniors in school. It was neat to see how these young kids had grown and many of the pictures, including Emily’s, showed a little bit of their personalities.

After this we all sang a couple of songs led by a student that Emily said reminds her of me, a compliment as the young man was very sincere and a pretty good singer. Then came the speaker.

One of the pastors of the church was given the opportunity to share and he did a great job of getting to the kids level speaking to them about life after high school and how it should be lived as a Christian.

He used the wisdom of Proverbs and showed them through the Word how their lives should be guided by the wisdom it contains.

Well, today we have been given the great opportunity to do the same through our Epistle lesson in 2 Corinthians. Only, instead of talking about how to get along in the world, I want to speak about how we are called to get along in faith.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reads, So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Today we talk about things unseen, those things promised to us but not yet realized, those things taught that depend on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to truly understand, something beyond what the human eye can see.

It has been said that faith has its life apart from science, yet it’s vital to any scientific theory. Often we, as Christians, are attacked for surrendering our lives to someone of whom we’ve read about in a book yet have never seen, yet science depends on nothing more than numbers and probabilities devoid from any word to believe in something.

It’s no wonder our youth are confused where the real truth lies. Too often these truths are searched for apart from Christ and the path always dead ends. Science tells us that Faith must be proven, so they look at things like spiritualism and the occult to try and get a glimpse of “the other side.”

Part of the reason that so many search for the truth in dangerous areas is because they aren’t hearing it from us. Oh, we might tell them that belief in Christ is the only answer, but our lives tell a different story and our faith in God’s word is questioned.

Or maybe it’s because, though we have the truth found in God’s Holy Word, the very Word of the living God, we neglect to share it using any number of excuses to avoid it. In its pages are all the answers to life’s riddles but we overlook the need to present it, proclaim it and teach it. By faith we are called to get the message out to all people, especially to those who are searching for the answers to life’s many questions.

To do this we must live our faith, stand firm in that faith and then spread that faith. As we respond to a world lost in sin we are called first to live our faith. Words of faith that are not demonstrated in our actions fall empty.

 

This is much easier said than done because living one’s faith is not the normal things to do in a world that relies on human ability and human understanding. For most people, if they can’t see it, touch it, feel it, smell it or taste it then it is not true to them, especially when it comes to faith in a mysterious God and life after death, things almost too good to be believed. People, especially young people, are very skeptical of something unless it can be properly explained.

Lee Strobel is the award-winning author of such best sellers as The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, etc. Lee is a former atheist and journalist. He wrote: “I Cor. 13:12 says that on this side of heaven, we only see things dimly, because we can’t understand everything from our finite perspective.
“Let me give you an analogy. Leslie (his wife) and I were driving up to Door County, Wisconsin, which is that thumb-shaped peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan. We were driving up Highway 42 in the dark, when it started raining heavily and we hit dense fog. I could barely see the white stripe on the edge of the road. I didn’t stop because I was afraid someone might come along and rear-end us, so I just crept along.
But then a truck appeared in front of us and we could clearly see his tail-lights through the fog.

He apparently had fog lamps in front, because he was traveling at a confident and deliberate pace, and I knew if we could just follow those taillights, we’d be headed in the right direction.
“And the same is true in understanding why there is evil and suffering in our world. We may not be able to make out all the details of why — they may be obscured from our view — but there are some key Biblical truths that can illuminate some points of light for us. And if we follow those lights, they will lead us in the right direction, toward some conclusions that I believe can satisfy our souls.”

We, you and I, have that light to lead people through a murky world. It is found in God’s Word and those Words that we, as Christians hold so dear, are to be proclaimed and lived, shown in all we do. The key to life’s problems is the Biblical truth, believed in faith and shown in our actions. We have grown in faith to believe every letter of every verse. Do we understand it all? Of course not, as we said last week some Godly truths will have to be learned later when Christ makes heaven our home, but, by faith, we are bold to proclaim the fruits of that faith and the truth that shines from the Word that God has given us.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Those are words describing faith and the only way to live by faith is to trust in the message of God in the Bible.

This is the only way to faith and it is where others should be led. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

How do we live our faith every day? We trust in the one who gave us life, we surrender to the one who sacrificed His life for our sake and we trust in direction that His Spirit leads us. We believe that God exists and that Jesus Christ is our Savior. We depend on the fact that we will one day be with that same Jesus Christ when our time on this earth is through. We have confidence in God’s words to get us through every day in a world of challenges and temptations and we show it in who we have become through that faith. As Christians we are called to live our faith.

And as we live our faith we are then called to stand firm in that faith. 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be people of courage; be strong.” And in chapter 15 of that same book we read, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

It seems that in our world, Christians have lost much of their fight. We’re being beheaded in Syria, thrown in jail throughout China and are being relegated to non-significance in our own country yet it seems we are doing little about it. Who is the one who will finally stand up for what we believe and have been taught?

Who will be the voice of so many suffering in the world because they have placed their faith in Jesus Christ? Who will vindicate the martyrs who choose death over renouncing their faith? What would Christ have done?

A famous preacher once said, “We must wake up, sing up, preach up, pray up, stay up, pay up, but never give up or let up or back up or shut up until the cause of Christ in this church and in the world is built up.” Now that’s standing up for our faith! If we had enough faith we would not be able any more to give up or let up. The message is just too important.

Billy Sunday, the baseball evangelist, never spared himself in his attacks against sin. He thundered against evil from the Gay Nineties through the Great Depression.

He preached Christ as the only answer to man’s needs until his death in 1935. “I’m against sin,” he said. “I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, and I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. When I’m old and fistless and footless and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to Glory and it goes home to perdition.”

Our faith is being attacked all over this world. It’s about time we stand up for what we believe. Let us believe in the truth that God has given us in His Word and believe it enough that it becomes part of who we are and important enough to fight for.

And we should have such faith that we can’t help but tell everyone about it. Matthew 28:18-19, And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 1 Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

It’s a message that you have heard in this pulpit many times but it’s so important that it bears repeating. If you are to live your faith and stand firm in that faith, you must spread your faith to all the itching ears you can.

As one politician after another enters the race for president, every soundbite they utter is laced with urgency and angst. They believe their words to be true and they valiantly make their case. Well, we need more Christians doing that as they proclaim the truth of God’s Word. We need to announce to the world what Jesus Christ has done to win our very souls. We need to declare to the whole earth the truth that can only be found in God’s word.

We need to broadcast the way to salvation from every corner of every country so that they might understand what a life in Christ means to those who are lost.

People are watching us. Yes, many of them are waiting for us to mess up so that they can be vindicated for their beliefs. But many are watching us as Christians to see if we are for real. They are listening for that one kernel of truth that they can believe in. They are looking for a way to escape the darkness and dangers of the world. They are observing us to see what makes us tick and why our faith means so much to us.

 

What impression are you sharing with them? Can they see your faith in how you live your life? Do they see you defend your faith while others try to erase it from the world? Are you spreading this Word that you supposedly believe in? Are they seeing anything different in you then they do from people who put their faith in worldly things? People are listening, are you sending the right message or do your actions betray you?

One way or another, we all need to get convicted when it comes to witnessing for Christ.

 

The world will continue to spread it garbage filled with hate and unbelief, are we prepared to be the voice that is heard over all of the negative? We need to be spreading the message, if we don’t somebody else will and their message might be filled with deceit.

In this messed up, mixed up world, God is counting on all of us to make a kingdom difference and there is only one way to do it. We must live our faith, stand up for our faith and spread that faith. No other way will find success. Amen.

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Bible Study Questions – 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

What kind of “speaking” was Paul talking about in verse 13?

What leads one to speak in this way? Hebrews 11:6

Is this speaking just to other Christians, or also to unbelievers in evangelism?

How does one reflect their belief in something? Jeremiah 20:8-9; Matthew 12:34

What does it mean to have the same “spirit of faith”?

How is the raising of Christ evidence of a triune God? John 2:19-22; 10:17-18; Acts 2:24,3:15; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20

How can it be that all things are for our sakes?

What is causing grace to spread to more and more people?

us? Why or why not?

What does it mean to lose heart? Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 3:13; II Thessalonians 3:13

How is losing heart tied to our faith?

Name some reasons why Christians might tend to lose heart.

What is our outer self and our inner self? What is wasting away? What is being renewed?

Describe the process of the renewal of our inner man.

Why is being renewed a daily event? Psalm 68:19

How can light momentary affliction prepare us for glory? Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4

Why would God choose afflictions as a path to glory?

What is the “eternal weight of glory”?

How can we look at things that are not seen?