Month: April, 2018

Sermon: Fishing for Men

 

Text:  Luke 5:1-11

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

Please pray with me…

Years ago, the British agnostic Thomas Huxley had to leave early one morning to go from one speaking engagement to another, so he got into a horse-drawn carriage to go from his hotel to the train station. He assumed that the hotel doorman had told the driver of the carriage that they were to go to the train station. So, when he got in, he simply said to the driver, “Drive fast.”

Off they went. After a short while, Huxley, who was somewhat familiar with the area, realized that they were actually going in the opposite direction from the train station. He yelled to the driver, “Do you know where you are going?” Without looking back, the driver replied, “No sir, but I’m driving very fast.”

I believe this is the perfect illustration to point out how many Christians live their lives every day. The more years pass the faster we seem to live our lives. Technical advancements and streamlined operations were suppose to make our life easier and thus give us more time, but the further things advance the more we seem to want to cram more things into any time that might be saved because of it. Before you know it were just running from one obligation to another without really understanding where all this anxious activity is taking us.

As Christians we are all taught that, to spend our time most effectively and efficiently, our activities should be in line with God’s will for our lives. But, somewhere God’s will gets lost in the frenzied activity of life. All the while the devil wonders why we make it so easy for him to manipulate our lives.

In our Gospel lesson we witness Christ standing by the lake of Gennesaret, another name for the Sea of Galilee. Around Him the crowd is pressing in hoping to hear the Master speak. With them are some of the fishermen who make their living on that lake and now follow Christ. Several commentators see this incident separate from Jesus’ first calling of His disciples which was about a year earlier.

It turns into a discourse between Peter, here called Simon, and Jesus. His disciples have been following Jesus and learning from Him. Their real mission of evangelism hasn’t started yet and Jesus, here, redirects their lives to their next phase in discipleship, to take what they have learned to the masses. In the opening lines, Jesus is teaching while the fishermen are washing their fishing nets. Soon Peter is no longer focused on nets for fish, Now, he will be trying to bring in a more important creature. From now on he will be fishing for men, along with all of Jesus’ other disciples. Understanding Jesus’ words in verse 10 are key to understanding and applying this story to our own lives.

Jesus’ words in verse 10 are these, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” The Greek word for catching here literally means to catch alive. In their old vocation as fishermen of the sea, everything they caught would eventually die, but now, as fishers of men, they would look to bring life. Men dead in their sins would be made alive in Jesus Christ. This is a great illustration of how Christ works in our hearts every day. It shows us God’s will for each and every life who claim Him as Lord of their lives. It teaches us that the greatest purpose for our lives and the purest form of worship is found when we follow Jesus in the catching of men. And, in this process, we have no need to fear, because, our trainer and teacher will always be there with us. 

Try to put yourself in this scene. Hundreds of people are pressing in on Jesus who finds Himself out of dry real estate standing at the edge of Lake Galilee. They are listening to His every word. And where are Jesus’ disciples? They are working their trade, preparing for their next outing as fishermen. As they clean they try to calm down the frustration they are feeling because the night of fishing has not been kind to them. No fish would be cleaned this day, they think to themselves, only these burdensome nets.

It is no coincidence that they are within earshot of their Master because Jesus has a very important thing to say to them that will literally change their lives. Archbishop Chenevix Trench describes it as Jesus designing Himself to take fishermen to HIS net. His first lesson is this, to catch men for Christ, we must first shift our focus from our over-complicated lives focused on worldly success, to the success that can be ours in catching people for the Savior.”

That should be our first goal in life. Every success in the world is temporary but the catching of men can bring eternal rewards. Our focus should be on Christ first and foremost and it should be seen in everything we do.

Worldly success is fine. There is nothing wrong with wanting our business, our lives, to thrive in the world. God wants us to do well in our worldly vocation as long as it is parallel to His desire for us. It isn’t more spiritual to be mediocre in our vocation of work. Even in this God wants us to work to the best of the abilities He has given us because in this way we better serve others.

Jesus is not telling us here to end every earthly aspect of our lives to fish for men. But He is saying that many of us need a change in life so that, even when we live our earthly lives, we are fishing for people to help bring their lives to Christ.

As followers of Christ who profess our faith in Him, however, we do need to shift many of our priorities. If our earthly endeavors come before our work in the name of God, then ultimate success will never be found, at least spiritually. God’s primary purpose for us will never be that we are successful in our jobs.  Jesus Christ makes this clear in Matthew 6:19 and 33, where He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in a steal, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 

Secondly, I believe the lesson is, “To catch men for Christ, we must obey the sovereign authority of Jesus.” Jesus is much more than a man of wisdom. He knows exactly what each man should do to find their ultimate and eternal success. As Jesus is speaking, He demands that the fishermen “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” This was to show His authority.

Here is a simple carpenter to many, telling professional fisherman how to do their jobs. Peter and the others knew that they had just fished at night, the very best time to fish, and had caught nothing. But, after a brief protest, He does what his Master demands. The result of this act of faith is yet another of Jesus’ miracles. This miracle is a lesson to them on who to trust.

So often we attempt to bring Jesus Christ down to our own level simply because He lived a life like ours. We fail to see the man of God in His divinity. To make their next step of faith, the fisherman would have to see Jesus as more than a mere mortal. They would have to see Him as the ultimate authority. Because the message was too great to trivialize, the task they were to undertake was too vital. The lives they were now to lead needed to be focused on the purpose they were born to fulfill. They needed to know that their initiative and guidance for evangelism would come directly from God Himself.

And we are no different. Their calling is also ours. In fact, everyone who claims Christ is obligated to share His message of salvation as a first priority in their lives. As Jesus speaks to them He is also speaking to us. As I’ve said many times before, God has great plans for every life. He died and rose again so that you would understand His authority to lead us to action. And the obedience we need in evangelism lies within us, propelled in faith by the Holy Spirit at work inside us.

And finally, to catch men for Christ, we must work together with other transformed sinners. In verse 7 Peter had to call on his fellow fishermen to haul in the enormous amount of fish in his nets. He couldn’t do it alone. And in the catching of men, it also takes all of us working together for a common goal.

Together we are stronger, together we are wiser, together we are more stable because we have each other to lean on in the work of God we are all appointed to do. As fishers of men we are to work together even though we are not ultimately responsible for the catch. The Lord is! We work together but all glory goes to God who has worked through us to bring more and more of His children to everlasting life.

How blessed we are to have a God who trusts in us enough, who loves us enough, to let us do His divine work with the guiding of His Holy Spirit. You and I have a story to tell. A story of salvation, A story of everlasting possibilities. And all because Jesus Christ loved us enough to take on all those things that might hinder our efforts in His name.

Is the thing that captivates your life your earthly business or the Lord’s business? Are you fishing for profits or are you fishing for men? I found an illustration about a elderly man who ran a variety store. It had once been a thriving business, but as he got older, the man became obsessed with keeping the store neat and clean. He spent hours arranging and rearranging the merchandise on the shelves. Some days he wouldn’t even open the store, for fear that it would be messed up by others. That man had lost sight of the purpose of his store.

In our spiritual life, unfortunately, it’s too easy for us to do. We get so busy with our earthly priorities that we forget the truest purpose.

We have so very much to be thankful for. We have so many lifesaving stories to share. Stories of forgiveness and redemption. Stories of godly grace and divine power. Think about it. You and I have been gifted to live an everlasting life with the author of love. You and I have been given the righteousness of Christ. We have been set free from sin and death because God thought we were to precious to give up on. Yes, we have a beautiful story to share.

Don’t let the busyness of life overtake your greatest priority to tell the story of grace and mercy found in the one true God. Don’t let your earthly goals overwhelm the task you have been given to make a Godly difference in people lives. The devil will try to make you as busy as possible with things that have nothing to do with your salvation. In the name of Christ, throw Him back to the mirth and mire He has created and decide to live your lives for the one who has given you life eternal.

I pray that the Lord will use this message to show us all that the greatest purpose we can have in life is to follow Jesus in catching men alive for Him. I pray that each of us will go out into out respective mission fields armed with that purpose, and that the Lord will be pleased to give us a miraculous catch of men and women and young people for His kingdom. Amen.

 

Bible Study: “Fishing for Men”

Bible Study Questions – Luke 5:1-11

In verse 4, how does the scene change? If you were Simon, how would you be feeling?

Do you suppose that Jesus chose Peter’s boat on purpose? If so, what was the purpose?

James and John have watched this whole thing. What might have gone through their minds as Jesus made the suggestion to Simon about putting out into the deep?

What lesson is Jesus teaching in His miracle of catching many fish?

Peter is rewarded because He let the Savior lead. How many harvests do we miss out on because we make excuses instead of doing what Jesus said?

Can you remember the first time you really understood who Jesus was?

Think about your day. List some of your opportunities to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit. How do you choose when to obey and when to disobey?

What small lesson can we learn from Peter calling on his friends to haul in the fish?

Paul repents and kneels at the Savior’s feet because he’s “astonished” at the catch of fish. In return Jesus says, “Do not be afraid; From now on you will be catching men.” What did Jesus mean?

Should every Christian have the purpose of reaching the lost or is this only the job of some? Defend your answer biblically. Psalm 105:1; Isaiah 12:4; Matthew 5:15-16, 28:19-20; Mark 10:29-30; 16:15; John 15:8; Acts 13:47, 20:24; 1 Peter 3:15

What are some pros and cons (if any) of Christians being trained to share their faith?

How can we maintain a profound sense of God’s holiness and yet relate to sinful people without seeming “holier-than-thou”?

What is the scariest aspect of being involved in evangelism for you?

Explain in your own words the phrase, “They left everything and followed Him?”

Is Christ’s call to you any different today? Why or why not?

If you had been one of these three fishermen, what characteristics of Jesus would have led you to leave everything to follow him?

Is there anything in your life you are holding on too tightly? Is God calling you to give up something in order to follow Him completely? When you reach the gates of eternity, what will be in your hands?

(Note:  Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org)

Sermon: “Jesus Mocked”

 

Text:  Mark 15:16-20

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

Please pray with me…

Our Gospel lesson this morning takes us back to a very sad time in history. In fact, in all of history there has not been a day which held such sorrow. This scene, in particular, is worthy of special attention because of its horror. In it we see our Savior beaten and spit upon. In other accounts we read of Him being whipped and tormented. He could have saved Himself, but, in obedience He remains silent, ready to undertake what He must to save the world.

Yet, I believe, to Jesus, there is still something much more hurtful happening, something that we often tend to overlook, the mocking he endured through it all. They deride Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” in mocking tones all the while unaware that He is not just King of the Jews, but the King of all.

We know enough about Jesus to know that, even as they mocked Him He was praying for their souls. Even as they beat Him and spit upon Him he was pleading with His Father to forgive them.

This scene is heart breaking, not only because of the treatment of Christ, but because of His tormentors’ failure to see Jesus for who He was. Had they believed, they would be worshipping Him instead of mocking Him. Had they seen clearly, their cruel taunts would have been replaced by Hosannas.

But, as it was, they were ignorant to the truth. They were simply following orders and having a little fun in the process. If they had only known. If Christ would have only shown them His radiance. Yet, He refused to fight it. Even as they shouted their curses, He set His eyes like flint upon the cross. He had the authority to call down legends of angels to save Him but He remained faithful to His calling.

He was silent because His love for us overwhelmed any punishment He must endure to save us. He had been born for such a purpose and His goal was to win salvation for all of mankind. He had the choice between saving Himself and saving us and He picked the path of love. In verse 29, He will be mocked again, this time by the crowd, telling Him to prove Himself to be the very Son of God by saving Himself but they had His intent completely wrong. Instead He endured scorn so that He could give, even the ones who beat Him and mocked Him, a chance to be saved.

It’s hard to fathom that kind of love, especially knowing how little we deserve it. Knowing how horrible the mockery was, as well as His physical torture, gives a clear picture to the lengths our Savior will go to rescue us from sin and death. It also reinforces how much we owe Him in return.

Yet, it’s so easy to hear the story every year and glaze over just how horrible it was. We thank Him for saving us but we fail to study the distance Christ has gone and is willing to go, to fulfill His Father’s promise of everlasting peace.

In fact, even today, the mocking of Christ lives on. We are all in agreement that the mocking of Christ was beyond horrible, yet we see it even today and we fail, in our sin, to recognize it. Mockery is doing or saying one thing but meaning another. They shouted, “Hail, King of the Jews!” but they saw Him as no more than a common criminal. They knelt at His feet in imitation subservience while believing He was no more than a pathetic prisoner. We imagine the scene and our hearts break, yet in our own ways, we allow the mocking to continue.

Every time we limit His power we mock Him as if He were a mortal being. Every time we fail to come to Him in our struggles we mock Him as one who is unable to help us. Every time we live our worldly lives of sin, we mock His Words of spiritual truth.

On one side of our mouths we say Jesus is Lord but on the other we support our ungodly values. We claim to believe Scripture like Acts 2:36 which says, “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified!” Yet we don’t show this faith by how we live our lives.

We hear the words of 1st Corinthians 8:6, “..For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist,” but we often trust more in the gods of our own making.  We hear Jesus call Himself, “Lord of the Sabbath,” but we fail to comprehend what that means.

Christians believe that Jesus is Lord and will quickly say “amen” to that. But we need to remember that Lord is not just an empty title – it’s a declaration of who Jesus is. He is Lord over all, the CEO of the universe, the ruler of our lives. When we declare “Jesus is Lord” while simultaneously wanting to run our own lives, we mock Christ to His face.

He is not our advisor, our side kick or even our co-pilot. He is our omnipotent God in whom nothing is impossible. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the creator of the universe and master over His handiwork. He is forever faithful and true and we all owe Him every part of our complicated lives. Mockery is meaning one thing but saying another. If we say Jesus is Lord yet live our lives as if that is not true, then we mock Him as horribly as the Romans did that sad, sad day so long ago.

Jesus Christ came to be our Savior from sin and death, things we had no hope of overcoming on our own. It’s not merely that we are forgiven of our sins but, because of His act of grace, sin no longer has any hold over us. Through His gift of unfathomable love, we no longer must face the consequences of our wickedness. We should relish all He has given us, yet we act as though we’re content with sin because it allows us to remain in the muck and mire of worldliness.

Yes, If we’re to be honest, the soldiers and the crowds were not the only one’s who have chosen to mock Jesus. Neither are outspoken critics and atheists. Sometimes we mock Jesus too. It’s a very hard thing to admit but it’s true. In fact, every time we have taken the grace of God for granted we have done the same.

I don’t remind you of this to make you feel bad. I do so, so that you may think of how you have unwittingly fallen in the devil’s trap. I don’t want you to leave here today beating your breasts in your depravity, I want you to make a change in your lives as I intend to do with my own.

That is why we need constant reminders of just what we have been delivered from, namely our own sinful nature that constantly challenges our relationship with Christ. Even though we have been saved through Christ on the cross and our faith in Him, we must begin to understand that we are being saved daily through His blood.

Hebrews 10:12-15 reads, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, waiting for that time until His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet. For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who were being sanctified.” 

Daily we are being sanctified. Even after all of our mocking, Christ has chosen to be in relationship with us. Even after our thoughtlessness He has chosen to work His Spirit in us daily so that we might be made holy.

Even Paul struggled with this, we read of His struggles in Romans 6 and 7. After exploring His own sinful nature and God’s redemption through Jesus Christ regardless, He revels in the forgiveness He has received. After confessing His own shortcomings and ongoing battle against sin, He comes to understand His utter dependence on Christ. He says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” I’m sure we all get it and have experienced it. We are all worthy of saying, “Wretched person that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

I hope forever that we will read of the mocking of Jesus now in a different light then you have before. It’s good to remind ourselves how we fit into that very scene. May it re-awaken our awareness of our own need for Godly grace.

May it remind us that we are associated with the sinners, the mockers, and the scoffers in need of forgiveness and mercy. May it reignite our worship as we echo Paul’s words in Romans 7:25: Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Just as Jesus prayed for His tormentors, He also prays for you, Father, forgive them.”

At the very end of his first letter to Timothy, Paul instructs His younger student to, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” In this way I speak to you today to watch yourself. Keep a close watch on the many ways there is to mock our mighty God. Keep a close watch on your words and the meditations of your heart. Consider how you might be mocking the Lord in your own life.

It’s easy to fall into the trap so I urge you to remain faithful in your daily worship. Cling to His Words of truth and strength. Surrender your lives in faithful service to the One who did all He had to do to save you from sin and death. Do not mock the one who can claim to be King of all.

What we saw today in our Gospel lesson was hard to look at, Jesus being so cruelly mocked but it’s a serious accusation for us as well. In what ways do you mock Jesus? Choose today to commit your lives to praising and not mocking. Live your lives in constant adoration and not in limited faithfulness. The one who is and who is to come wants you to trust in Him with your very lives. Show Him you want the same. Amen.

Bible Study: “Jesus Mocked”

Bible Study – Mark 15:16-20

Why do you think some people feel the need to mock others? What is it born from?

What did the soldiers say in mockery of Jesus? What is the supreme irony of this?

What does this tell us about how the Romans saw the Jews?

Why were condemned criminals flogged so brutally? How did this help accomplish the Roman’s task to subdue the Jews?

Who else mocked Jesus that day? Verse 27-32; Luke 23:10-11

Name some ways people tend to mock Jesus even today, many times without even thinking of it.

In what ways has some parts of society mocked our belief in Christ?

Have you ever been mocked for being a Christian? How did it feel?

What are some things we might do to stop the mocking?

Why does God allow good Christian believers to suffer?

What should Christians do in response? Is there a different response we should have between people mocking our faith and those actually mocking God Himself?

Ultimately, should we care what other people think? Why or why not?

What difference does it make that Jesus endured harsh ridicule and pain for your sake?

What does this passage tell you about yourself, and your own relationship with and to God?

What does God have to say about those who mock Him? 2 Kings 19:21-28; Proverbs 19:28-29; Galatians 6: 7-8

How did the purple robe and the crown of thorns play into their mockery?

Is it clothes or crowns that make the king? If not, what does in the worldly sense? In the Spiritual sense?

How does Jesus fulfill both?

Why do you suppose Jesus never tried to save Himself? Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22

What can we learn from Jesus about how to deal with pain and suffering?

(Note:  Bible study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org)

“Giving Him Our Best”

 

Text:  Mark 14:3-9

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

Please pray with me…

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 

I’ve been reading a very interesting book by Temper Longman entitled, “Immanuel In Our Place: Seeing Christ in Israel’s Worship.” It’s a book that attempts to explain the way Old Testament Israel worshipped and how it connects to our New Testament worship of Christ.

We have a tendency, today, to look back at Old Testament worship and wonder why, especially as it has to do with their sacrifice rituals. They seem so bloody and gruesome to the casual observer. Why would God require such a worship practice like sacrificing animals?

Temper reminds us it’s because of sin. You see, because we sin, our penalty is death. God hates sin and will not have any part of it, even from His creation.

Yet, the penalty of death has to be fulfilled because our God is a righteous judge and cannot let sin pass unpunished.

By His grace He provided a way out for the people he so dearly loved by allowing a substitute to be given. During the sacrifice, the sinner would place his hands on the head of the bull or goat or whatever he was sacrificing, ceremonially transferring His sin unto the animal being sacrificed. Once the penalty of death had been paid through the surrogate, the sinners sin was washed clean.

The animals slaughtered could be anything from bulls to birds. If one couldn’t afford to sacrifice a bull, then a goat or lamb would do. If they couldn’t afford even this, then a bird would suffice. But no matter the animal, it was to be unblemished. God wanted their best. A goat with a limp would not do. A bird that could not fly was forbidden. Whatever was given had to be their best. The firstborn, the choicest goat, the flawless lamb.

That is what separated Cain’s sacrifice from Abel’s. Cain gave from a portion of his crop, not the choicest portion, just a portion. Abel gave the firstborn and the treasured fatty portions. The best he had to offer. Therefore, God had high regard for Abel’s gift but for Cain’s gift He had no regard.

In our Gospel lesson for this morning we see another form of sacrifice. Though our text does not tell us, the Gospel of John tells us it was Mary who used pure nard, a very expensive and aromatic oil, to anoint the Savior. This amount of oil equaled about a year’s pay to the average worker. It would have been the very best Mary had.

Now, in studying these examples of worship, we might assume that God likes nice things. Like many of us he wants to surround Himself with the best of the best. Only the choicest lamb or the costliest oil would do. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth because it was not the value of the sacrifice God was interested in, it was the dedication of the heart. Giving the very best of what you have to the Lord takes a special heart toward Christ. It’s the biggest sacrifice, the hardest to do, therefore it takes the greatest faith that the sacrifice will not be wasted.

We see an example of this kind of attitude two chapters earlier in Mark 12.

And (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.

And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

You see, it wasn’t the value of the gift, it was the heart it which it was given. God wants the best of you, not the best of your things. He wants you to trust Him with your whole heart, not just the part you’re willing to sacrifice.

What made Mary’s gift truly precious was that it was done without a word. She simply did it in worship for her Lord. She didn’t hesitate but willingly prepared for our Lord’s sacrifice with great faith and humility, even if she didn’t yet know the rest of the story. She didn’t gloat at what she had done, she simply did all she could with the very best she had.

The Bible says that, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the Humble.” In this scene Mary showed great humility. First she poured the oil on Jesus’ head and, according to John 12:3, she then poured it on His feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. You see, in those days, only servants touched feet, but not only did she touch them but she wiped those feet of Christ with her own hair showing great humility and love. Because of this Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing.” When we do a beautiful act in humility towards Christ, lives can be touched and changed forever, especially our own.

So, what does that mean for us? What does God expect from His people today? Well, in the simplest terms, He wants the very same. He wants you willing to sacrifice your very best. He wants you to trust him with the same trust the widow had. He wants you to depend on Him every bit as much as Able did. He wants you to come to Him with the same humility and love that Mary showed. And He has shown He’s willing to give you the very same in return.

God showed His love for us in that He was willing to give of the very best of Himself. But, instead of a Bull or a goat, He sacrificed His only Son for us. In this way, Jesus became the surrogate for all of mankind. He took away all of man’s sin by transferring those sins upon the very best he had to give, His own Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.

That’s why Mary’s sacrifice was so much more special, because it not only showed her willingness to give the very best of what she had, but it was led by the Spirit of God to prepare the way for an even greater sacrifice through the anointing of His Son. This is why her special sacrifice will always be remembered. This is why it was seen by God to be a beautiful thing. Because, what was soon to become, would be God’s greatest gift to mankind. Soon after her special gift to God, she, along with all people would be given the gift of the perfect sacrificial lamb. The only one who has ever existed without blemish. Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

So, what will you be remembered for? Will it be for the things you have accumulated or for the things you were willing to sacrifice in the name of God?

There is a challenging story about another lady named Dorcas in Acts chapter 9. Verse 36 says, Dorcas was, “always doing good and helping the poor.” It was in her very nature to sacrifice herself for the benefit of others. When she became sick and died, and urgent message was given to Peter who was nearby, to come at once. When Peter arrived, all the widows again reminded Peter of Her willingness to give of the best she had to give, showing Him the robes and clothing Dorcas had made for them. As they cried and spoke, something stirred within Peter as he reflected on all the sacrificial acts of Dorcas, and the end result was that God instilled within Him enough faith to raise this beautiful lady from the dead. Like Mary, her acts of sacrifice and love would never be forgotten and are still with us to this day.

When the Missionary John Paton was buried in an area where he selflessly gave of the best of himself by sacrificing his life in mission towards others, with large numbers of people turning to Christ, these words were apparently engraved on the epitaph on his tombstone: “Here lies John Paton. When he arrived there were no Christians, only heathens. When he left, there were no heathen, only Christians.”

He was willing to serve God with all that he had and it saved thousands. Today He will be remembered for those sacrifices and many more will come to Christ because of His willingness to give the best of himself.

So, in conclusion, I ask you to also trust God by giving Him the best of yourselves. Trust in Him by giving the very best of yourself in your service towards Him. Trust Him in tithing the very best of the gifts God had given you whether it be your treasures or your talents. Give to Him the very best because He gave you His very best and continues to do that in every moment.

Our Lord would never expect from us anything that He is not willing to give us in return. Yet His blessings to us are even greater as each cup overflows with all He has to give, the very best of Himself.

If you are willing, I challenge you to not count the cost as you give in all humility. If criticism comes your way because of the sacrifice you are making, handle it with the same grace that God shows to those He loves. As you give of yourself for Christ, it will point people, wherever possible, to the sacrifice He was willing to give so that we could all receive the very best of things. Do so, and your acts of love and humility will never be forgotten. God is ready to assume full responsibility for a life wholly yielded to Him.

We end reading  Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” Amen.

Bible Study “Giving Him Our Best”

 

Bible Study Question – Mark 14:3-9

Why do you suppose Mary did this? Was it of her own accord?

What did Mary’s act signify?

In John, the woman is Mary, the sister of Simon the home owner. Why do you think Mark neglected to give her name?

*Interesting fact* Nard is an aromatic Himalayan plant, believed to be the spikenard, Nardostachys jatamansi, the source of an ointment used by the ancients.

Were those who were complaining about this expensive ointment’s waste right in complaining? Why or why not? (300 Denarii was about a years wages for the common laborer)

Was aromatic oil the greatest gift given that day? Explain. Matthew 10:37; John 21:15-17

What does it mean to give Jesus your best and why should we always give our best to Christ? John 1:1,14; Galatians 2:20; 1 Timothy 1:15

How did Christ modal this for us? 1 Peter 1:17-19

What will be the result of giving our best to Christ?

Does it matter what the world thinks, so long as He is pleased with us?

In John, the complainer is stated to be Judas Iscariot? Contrast Mary’s action from Judas’.

What do you think was Mary’s reaction to Judas’ complaint?

It is interesting that the word translated ‘waste’ (apwleia) in Verse 4 is translated ‘perdition’ (A state of spiritual ruin: loss of the soul) in John 17:12 and applied to Judas. What can you take from this?

*Interesting note* Anointings were popular during Passover (Psalm 23:5, 141:5) and this was two days before the Passover.

Jesus called her act a “good work.” How is this so?

Jesus’ words sound harsh in verses 6 – 7. What does He mean by saying this? Deuteronomy 15:11

What do Jesus’ comments say about His ultimate feelings about the poor and destitute?

What is especially beautiful about Christ’s words in verse 8, “She has done what she could,” and how does that tell us of His expectations for us? Luke 21:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:11-12

Explain verse 10. Acts 10:4

(Note:  Bible study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org)

“More Than A Miracle”

 

TEXT:  Mark 3:7-12

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

Please pray with me…

Well, Christmas and Easter have come and gone and we exhale …Maybe that’s just me. Spring and Summer are on our doorstep and we eagerly await the end of the rainy season, so we can enjoy the warmer weather here in paradise. It’s a time for family reunions and vacations, baseball and picnics. So much more to do. How do we fit it all in?

Unfortunately, when the Easter season ends, many will also take a vacation from following Jesus so closely. But, Christmas will come again and then they’ll put on their Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes and give Him a little more of their time. Until then, however, they’re too busy with the “me” stuff.

Yet the call of Christ on our lives does not change after the Easter season. He still expects that we give Him 100% of ourselves. He still counts on us to spread the Good News of salvation to all people. He wants every day to be Easter in our hearts.

Several years ago, on New Years Day, a beautiful float in the Tournament of Roses parade suddenly sputtered and quit and the whole parade was held up. The most amusing thing was this float represented the Standard Oil Company. With its vast resources, its truck ran out of gas.

That’s how I think many of us Christians end up after the holiday seasons. With all that we have to be thankful for…with all the resources that God has given us…with such a saving message to share, we sputter in our faith and eventually come to a halt. I’ll get to church when its convenient. That should hold God over until Christmas comes around again.

How about you? It’s awesome to see you all here this morning, but what about when you leave this place. Will you stay in idle until next week, or will you keep the Christ engine going?

In the first few chapters of our Gospel lesson we read, Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that He was doing, they came to Him. And He told His disciples to have a boat ready for Him because of the crowd, lest they crush Him, for He had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around Him to touch Him.”

There were lots of people around Jesus that day, but they really weren’t looking to Jesus the Messiah, they were looking to Jesus the miracle worker. As long as they were getting something, they pressed on hoping for even the slightest touch so that they might be healed. They had no faith in Jesus beyond what He could do for them.

Their excitement was in the moment and when that moment was no longer available to them, then they cared little about Jesus the true Messiah. Apart from Him, the enthusiasm subsided.

But Jesus wasn’t interested in His popularity as a healer of earthly bodies. He was interested in healing their hearts, preparing their very souls, extending their lives beyond their lives here on this planet. We can imagine that in His happiness to heal the people He so dearly loved, there was also a sadness that many would fall away when they had gotten what they had come for. Even the demons He cast out knew who He was, yet so many didn’t care, as long as they felt better when they left Him.

Jesus healed because He came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom. Yet he longed to give more than the huge crowd was asking for. He longed for them to yearn for greater things that He was prepared to give them. Even so the crowd pressed Him for purely selfish reasons and He healed them out of His God-sized love.

The same gifts He was willing to give them, He is more than willing to give you. His love and want for you never wains even when you forget about Him again and again. But He knows that many will fall away after they get what they want out of Christmas and Easter. They will wait until the need arises again, if it ever does.

Many fall away because they’re still looking for Jesus the miracle worker and not Jesus the Messiah. They follow for purely selfish reasons. They feel better about themselves when they go to church. They think that if they appease Christ now and again that somehow their lives will be more charmed. Yes, Jesus the miracle worker is still quite popular.

But Christ wants more for His people. He wants you to come to Him for whatever reason. He wants you to count on Him as your healer and provider. Even when the selfish crowd presses in on Him today, He heals the sick and casts out the demons.

Still Jesus wants to give you so much more. He doesn’t want you to be content after He has simply meets your wants. He wants you to trust in Him for greater things. He doesn’t want you to come to church just so you can feel better about yourself, he wants you to take advantage of the message so that your rewards become everlasting. He wants to fill you with His power enough that it will last the week. He wants that power to reach out to others with the greatest news of all so that they too can benefit from their faith.

Isn’t that what you want also? Or,are you still content going through the motions of your faith doing just enough to satisfy yourselves? If you can’t get past your own desires, then don’t crowd Jesus.

Don’t come to Him for purely selfish reasons. Expect Him to give you more then you could have ever hoped for.

You see, when many of those people who crushed in on Jesus were cured, they had no further use for Jesus and they just left. And because they left, they condemned themselves. Because they were only in it for the quick cure, they lost things infinitely greater.

Christ is not a magician putting on a show, He is the salvation of the world ushering in everlasting life. He’s not looking to gain souls by giving into people’s selfish desires like some sideshow act, He wants you to trust in His promises of more than you could ever imagine.

So, instead of going through the motions in your faith, answer His call. Respond to His invitation, commit yourself to His will and not your own for the rest of your life. Don’t be satisfied with the quick cure.

It’s important to know that while Jesus cares for the many, only a few will follow Him past their self-seeking wants and desires. He wants you to be part of the group that follows Him above all things. Because the power is not in the crowd, it’s in the calling.

I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want my life to be. I want to follow a loving God with every step and with every breath knowing that He’ll still be there for me when I mess up along the way. I don’t want to be content just being one of the crowd. I want the whole package.

I want to be used in great and mighty ways knowing that nothing is impossible with God. I want to pray great prayers, dream great dreams, think great thoughts and accomplish great things. Because there are no limits with God, I want Him to do things in my life that I could never have dreamed of on my own.

If you want those same things then I urge you to answer His call. He invites you to stick around, unsatisfied with just the quick cure. He wants to have more than a superficial relationship with you. He wants it to have real meaning and purpose beyond anything the crowd receives.

President Teddy Roosevelt was a very charismatic man who made quite an impression on anyone he met. One journalist, William Allen White, wrote of his meeting with Roosevelt in 1897:

“He sounded in my heart the first trumpet call of the new time that was to be… I had never known such a man as he, and never shall again. He overcame me. And in the hour or two we spent that day at lunch, he poured into my heart such vision, such ideals, such hope, such a new attitude toward life and patriotism and the meaning of things, as I had never dreamed men had…after that I was his man.”

If Teddy Roosevelt could have such an impact on a person, imagine what Christ can do for you if you let Him into your heart.

While Roosevelt couldn’t offer to provide new vision, new hope or new meaning to anyone, Jesus Christ can. Accept His invitation so that you can truly say, “I am His.”

Embrace this opportunity Christ is giving you. Don’t be content simply going through the motions hoping God will get you through the hard times. Surrender to Him completely and experience the kind of a loving relationship that isn’t available in the world. Trust in your Savior to do more in your life than you could have ever hoped for. Challenge Him to show you more, use you more and guide you more. He’s much more than a miracle worker. Amen.

 

Bible Study: More Than A Miracle

 

Bible Study Questions – Mark 3:7-12

Why is Jesus doing by withdrawing with His disciples to the sea? Does it have anything to do with the previous verse?

Why had the crowd gathered? Were they looking for a Messiah or a miracle worker? How does this equate to what many people are wanting from Jesus today? Matthew 4:24-25; Luke 6:17-19

It is wonderful for people to be attracted to Jesus. But if their focus is on what He can do for them instead of who He is will they follow Him for long if He asks more of them? Why or why not?

Do we see signs of this in our own society? If so, how?

Knowing this, what do you think Jesus was thinking?

What hints do we get from verse 8 & 9 as to the size of the crowd?

How much do you think crowd size had to do with the Pharisee’s wanting to destroy Jesus?

What can go wrong in a crowd atmosphere, especially as one as charged as the ones who followed Jesus? Mark 11: 8-10, 15:9-13; Acts 19:24-41

Why did the people want to touch Jesus and how would they know to do so? Mark 6:56; Matthew 9:20-21, 14:34-36; Luke 6:19

*Interesting fact* Idumea is the Greek name for a territory located south of Judea in the same general are as Edom. It was the homeland of Herod the Great. Isaiah 34:5; Ezekiel 35:15

General question…Do you believe that demons work in the same way today as they did then. Why or why not?

Why was Jesus so concerned about the demon’s giving up His identity? Genesis 6:2; Exodus 4:22; Job 1:6; 2 Samuel 7:14; Hosea 11:1

Why do you think they yelled out His name?

One might get the impression from what Mark has recorded thus far that Jesus was rather aloof, not allowing folks to talk about Him and not getting too close to anyone. How do we know from this passage that this isn’t true? Mark 3:13-15

If you were to define a devoted follower of Jesus, what would be your definition be? Why?

What makes you a follower?

(Note:  Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org)