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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Depart from me, for I am a sinful man

I've been going to school on Michael Horton's stiff challenge to contemporary Christians regarding a moralizing, try-harder approach to Christianity rather than leaning on the grace of God. Perhaps because I will soon speak on Peter's denial the quote below caught my eye.
Before singing, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," I find myself, with Peter, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." (Luke 5:8). And Peter did not feel this only once, when he first met Jesus. His journey with Jesus fluctuated from high points, such as his confession of Jesus as the Christ, to the low point of denying Christ three times, back to the high point of being martyred for his testimony to his Savior. Like Peter, our Christian life is a roller coaster of faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Since we always draft back to self-confident triumphalism (remember Peter's protest, "i will never deny you!" just before he did,) we need to hear God's verdict on our righteousness through the law and his assurance of pardon in the gospel." Jesus example is not good news but a terrifying burden unless he is first of all the one who saves me from my inability to follow it."

Michael Horton, Christless Christianity, p. 135-136.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Love in the Time of Hate

This Sunday at Bethany Place, I am jumping to near the end of the gospel of Mark (Mark 14:1-26) to begin to prepare us to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday April 8th. We will examine the extreme opposites which Jesus’ presence provoked among those close to him. A part of that text includes the recounting of the first Lord’s Supper. I will link to the audio here once it is available.
In the Lord’s Supper our physical senses are assaulted. We can hear the bread being broken and the wine (we use grape juice) being poured. We can see the texture of the bread and the color of the juice. We feel the bread as we pick it up. We can smell the aroma of the juice and finally we taste both the bread and the wine. It’s a fascinating tangible experience where the need of our souls, invades our physical world. It’s a vivid reminder that the experience of the cross for Jesus was real. Yet, these tangible experiences point to greater realities. They are physical enactments of the spiritual reality of our need to receive from Jesus his offering. He took our place and drank the full cup of God’s judgment for our sake. New believers and long seasoned Christ followers have exactly the same need. I pray you will join me Sunday as we physically act out this great need we have to receive from Jesus his offering for our sakes. Whether for the first time or not, may we all hear and respond to his invitation, “Take, this is my body.” Mark 14: 22.

You can see the text and the outline for Sunday below.

Love in the Time of Hate
Mark 14:1-25

1. Get off the fence
Mark 14:1–11 (ESV)
14 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.

2. Examine the nature of your love for Jesus

Mark 14:17–21 (ESV)
17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

3. Receive from Jesus what your soul craves

Mark 14:22–25 (ESV)
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Three Ways of Life

Sharing a meal is a great act of friendship. Kat and I have been greatly blessed by the hospitality of so many who have taken us out to eat or had us into their home or invited us to a meal with their ministry group. You can tell by looking at me that perhaps I've taken the approach of getting to know people by eating with them a little too seriously. The first piece of equipment that I need to get out of storage is probably my treadmill!

Jesus spent a lot of time sharing meals with people. This was true to such an extent that at least on one occasion he was accused of being a glutton. On Sunday at Bethany Place, we will examine three short scenes from Jesus' life, all of which have something to do with food. From the text we will expose three approaches to relating to God, and we will point strongly to the only one of those that will result in a positive outcome. Please pray with me that the work of God's kingdom will be strongly accomplished in our midst and among God's people throughout this community as we worship God together this weekend.

You can view the scripture, outline and questions for Sunday's message below. 

Three Ways of Life
Mark 2:14-28, The Story I Thought I Knew, Part 5

Love and welcome people who are different from you
Mark 2:13–17 (ESV) 13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Expect continuous  change
Mark 2:18–22 (ESV) 18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

Refresh the spirits of others
Mark 2:23–28 (ESV) 23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Questions for individuals, groups or families
With what kind of people are you most comfortable being around? How can you adopt Jesus’ purpose to call people to himself? Do your efforts in seeking to call people to Jesus have the same relational impact as sitting down to a meal with them?
Do you agree that prejudice and being judgmental are the default mode of the heart? Why or why not? How does the gospel address problems such as racism, party spirit, and social class distinctions?
How would you describe the difference in the religious approach and the gospel approach to relating to God? 
What is the typical way that you try to encourage someone to do something that you believe they need to do? How does your approach compare to the spirit of Jesus’ words in Mark 2:27 and Matthew 11:28-30?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Embracing God as the Fountain of Living Waters

I've always been challenged tremendously by the following words from the prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 2:13 (ESV)
13  for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.  

So today I'm focusing on what it means to do the opposite of what this verse says. What would it look like today for me to fully embrace God as the fountain of living waters? I believe that there active ways that we need to do this. I don't think that we should see this as only another way of speaking of the moment of salvation, but that there is a sense in which we need to actively embrace God in this way each day. I don't want to try to outline what I think that might look like. Rather, i would recommend that you have that thought in your mind and allow the Holy Spirit to prompt you as to what change needs to happen for this active embracing to be happening with your soul.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Building Faith

Below is the outline and text for Sunday's message here at Bethany Place.

Building Faith
Mark 1:40-2:12, Part 4 of The Story I Thought I Knew

1.    Allow Jesus’ active compassion to build your faith

Mark 1:40–45 (ESV) 40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

2. Examine your faith for its action and compassion factor

Mark 2:1–4 (ESV) And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.

3. See Jesus’ determination and ability to reveal himself to you

Mark 2:5–12 (ESV) And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Questions for individuals, groups, or families
How would you measure the intensity of the leper’s prayer? How would you measure the passion of your praying? What does the level of our passion in prayer reveal about our confidence in Jesus to work in us?

What is required to move from having feelings of compassion toward people who are hurting to actually taking action to make a difference? Who is God calling you to touch who is lonely or hurting?

What do the actions of these four men reveal about their faith? What are the implications for us that their faith was effective for the healing of this man?

Discuss the vividness with which Jesus reveals himself to those present in this incident. How does the combination of both forgiveness and healing strongly increase the way Jesus revealed himself to these people? What do you think is the connection between healing and forgiveness?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Beyond Amazing Audio

The third part of the series The Story I Thought I Knew from Mark 1:21-39 is now posted on the Bethany Place website. One of our elders reads the text for the sermon at the beginning of the message.

You can listen by clicking here

Friday, February 3, 2012

Beyond Amazing

This Sunday at Bethany Place I will be preaching a message I've called, Beyond Amazing. It is the 3rd in the series, The Story I Thought I Knew. Jesus is beyond amazing, but that's not the point of this message. Mark 1:22 talks about people being amazed, actually astonished, at Jesus teaching, but that did not necessarily lead them to faith in him. What were they missing? I will explore that on Sunday.  The outline and discussion questions are below.

Beyond Amazing
The Story I Thought I Knew Part 3, Mark 1:21-39

1.    Be amazed at Jesus’ authority
Mark 1:21–28 (ESV) 21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

2.    Be amazed at Jesus’ attraction
Mark 1:29–34 (ESV) 29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

3.    Be amazed at Jesus’ focus
Mark 1:35–39 (ESV) 35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.”
38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Discussion questions for groups, families and individuals

Why do you think that evil spirits and demons spoken of in the New Testament always knew who Jesus was? What do you think provoked them to voluntarily identify themselves in Jesus’ presence? Why do you think that Jesus’ refused to allow them to speak? What do evil spirits see and know that we don’t? Reflect on Psalm 111:10. The unclean spirit feared God but obviously was not a follower of Jesus. Is it possible then to fear God and not be rightly related to him? If so, how? What is the difference in the fear that the unclean spirit displayed and the fear spoken of in Psalm 111:10?

In what ways do you see that we are tempted to draw attention to ourselves and to the appeal of our churches rather than to draw attention to Jesus?

Why do you think Jesus did not stay to minister longer where there was so much obvious need? What is God’s purpose for your life? How is it possible to develop a single-minded focus on God’s purpose apart from the expectations of others?