The Great Witness

This week’s sermon focused on Easter and the Great Witness throughout time. If you missed the message, or simply would like to listen to it again, please click play below. Also, the Scripture Reading is below:

Acts 10: 24-43

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

 

Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

 

God’s Wisdom

This week we had some technical difficulties and was not able to record the message. However, below you will find the Scriptures and the manuscript from today’s message.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

 Sermon

            Today as we continue our journey from Ash Wednesday to the cross and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we will continue today by speaking about God’s wisdom in the cross. Now…I want us to stop a moment and stop just taking in whatever I say, and think about this for just a moment. Think about it not as a Christian, but as a human being. THE event of the salvation of humanity according to Christianity is that God comes in the form of a human being and suffers and dies as a Jew to an occupying power of Rome. That’s it. That is how God shows his power and authority. The God who we associate with power, I mean the God who created everything thing that ever was and is, shows his power by becoming weak. Seems a bit odd, and from the time of the first century to even now, it sounds like foolishness. But this is often how God’s wisdom works…it’s paradoxical. And today, we are going to talk about the paradoxes of God’s wisdom and the gospel. So let us begin first with our Gospel lesson, then speak about some practical truths of God’s wisdom, and then we will finish with the cross. The gospel of John shares with us a story of Jesus entering into the temple of Jerusalem. And as it was nearly time for Passover, many people had gathered outside the Temple, which at that time had been under renovations by King Herod. And as was typical in that time, many people traveled for many miles to come to this festival. And because of that travel, they did not bring with them their sacrifice without blemish. Rather, what many of them did is they would come to the Temple, the place where God dwelled, and outside the Temple gates was a street of vendors.

DSC02630

You can see here a picture of one such street and where the vendors would’ve set up shop. Anyway, you would first come and before you could buy such a sacrifice, you would have to exchange your money. In order to purchase a sacrifice you had to have a temple coin. According the Jews, no graven image was to be made inside the house of worship. Still to this day, if you go into a synagogue, you may see beautiful stain glass windows, but you will not see any images of any person or animal or anything. So money changers were necessary because their money has on it a picture of Caesar. Well, the money changers knew they had a corner on the market because there was no other place where the people could exchange their money. So the money changers would raise the exchange rate exorbitantly. And so Jesus came into this market place as he was probably coming to make a sacrifice himself, being the good Jew that he was, and had this holy discontent that just built up within him. These people that were supposed to be servants of God was taking advantage of God’s people in the name of God. And so Jesus does what we know Jesus did and Jesus confronted the issue head on. Jesus overturned the tables, chased them out with a whip and he told the owners of the animals that were caged to get them out of here. Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business! As I am sure you could imagine, this created a huge ruckus. And so, the leaders of the church, kind of like the bishops of our church, came and asked Jesus by what authority are you doing these things? Pretty much saying, we are in charge here, and who do you think you are telling us what is right and wrong. And not only are we in charge here, but if what you say is true, then show us through a miraculous sign that you are the Son of God and God has given you this authority. And this is where we get into God’s paradoxical wisdom in the gospel today. Jesus answers them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.”  And I would imagine laughing at Jesus they replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it in three days?” Now I want to pause here because I want to show you something.

DSC02615

This is a picture of me standing by the Southern Wall of what is left standing of the outer wall of the Temple grounds in Jerusalem. These stones that made up this wall are MASSIVE. The hearers of Jesus’ message was only thinking in human wisdom. They were not thinking through the lens of God. And what Jesus says is that if you destroy the Temple….not the building, but the Temple. The Temple is the place where God dwells. And God dwelled in Jesus the Christ. Jesus the Anointed One. And Jesus said if you destroy the temple, his body, in three days he would raise it up. It was with God’s wisdom did what seems to be impossible made possible. Now with that story in mind, and understanding that God’s wisdom is often paradoxical I want to talk about three particular spiritual disciplines that unless you come to with the right spirit will seem impossible. If we come to these disciplines with God’s wisdom and not our own earthly wisdom, great reward is at hand. As we are in the season of Lent, the first spiritual discipline that I want to talk about is fasting. Fasting is about not being enslaved to anything, not even our earthly desires. It’s interesting for a people so focused on freedom as we are here in the United States, that we continually place ourselves in bondage to so many things. From addictions to keeping up with the latest trends. We find ourselves so often in bondage with materialism that we have forgotten what true liberty looks like. And I believe fasting is an ancient practice that encourages us to grow in true freedom, true liberty. A freedom from sin and these things that distract us from God. In our worldly wisdom we believe that is we fast all we will get is an empty tummy and a caffeine headache. But what we really do get, IF we enter into a time of fasting with God’s spirit as our guide and lead is just the opposite of an empty stomach, but a life that seems to be overflowing with energy and fulfillment. We would think that by fasting that all we could think about is when are we going to get food next, but in reality if you allow yourself to truly enter the fast, the clarity in your prayer life is unlike any other. Your perspective of the world and God is much more crisp and your priorities in life are brought into order. And fasting is no new practice, but rather one that has been with us Christians from the beginning. St. Augustine of the 5th century once said, “Do you wish your prayer to fly toward God? Give it two wings: fasting and almsgiving.” Which brings me to our second spiritual discipline. Tithing. In our worldly wisdom we think or believe that if I give 10% to God and God’s mission, then I will be thus poor and unhappy. But what the scriptures have said, and I too have found to be true in my own personal life is that when I give 10% to God for God’s mission, I am happier than ever before. You see, because it is not just about money and paying bills. If you ever for one second you believe that we are putting money in this collection plate to just “pay the bills” then you are wasting your money. But if you give your offering of your tithe to God and pray, seriously pray, for God’s wisdom to guide our finance committee, then I seriously believe that you will find joy because you will see God’s work at hand. You will be truly rich…maybe not monetarily, maybe not through good health. We do not pay God to keep us healthy. But I do believe that spiritually the act of giving helps us to align our spirits in alignment with God’s. And paradoxically earthly wisdom says you will be poor, but God’s wisdom says you will be rich. And finally, the third spiritual discipline I want to speak about is Sabbath. We live in a time where time has consumed and controlled us. The worldly wisdom says that Sabbath would result only in time lost. When in God’s wisdom do we actually come to know that Sabbath is time gained. In the scriptures there are 157 direct references to Sabbath. In the Old Testament reading for today is the 10 commandments. And the 4th commandment of God’s people is to keep the Sabbath day Holy. Does anyone dare answer how important this was to God to know what the punishment for not observing the Sabbath was? (Death) Now I tell you this not to scare you into Sabbath, but for you to realize just how important in a time consuming world we live in how much God desires for us to be full of life and fulfilled. And God understands that when we take a Sabbath it is not time lost, but truly in God’s wisdom who created us it truly is time gained. And so, I want to give you a few tips for taking a Sabbath. Start Small. Perhaps you may want to start right here with Lent. And begin by taking a Sabbath of four hours. And in those 4 hours turn it all off. Unplug from the internet, the phone, the facebook, the tv. Unplug from it all. Mother Teresa wrote, “We need to find God and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence…We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Take a prayer walk or go walk a labyrinth. But schedule your Sabbath. If it is a Sunday afternoon, great, if not, maybe it be Friday morning. And then each week add one hour to those 4 hours. Make Sabbath time part of your daily routine. Begin and end the day not with thinking about what you have to do that day or what you have to do tomorrow, but by being still and silent in God’s presence. And don’t forget to nap on your Sabbath. It reminds us we’re human and it helps the body recalibrate. Trust me, I know it sounds absurd or illogical, but if you are feeling like you don’t have time to complete all that you have to do, take time for a Sabbath. If you don’t trust me, then trust God. You know Sabbath, Tithing, and Fasting are all great spiritual disciplines that truly show the paradoxical nature of God’s wisdom, but I want to share with you a personal experience of mine. I was addicted for many years. I felt and thought that I could not do without this thing I was addicted to. As it came time for me to give up this addiction I became apprehensive, I panicked, I pushed it off. I thought in my worldly wisdom I could not go without it. I would become bored without it. I thought I needed a television provider. About 2.5 years ago, Jackie and I cancelled our Direct TV. And everything I just said was true about how I was feeling two years ago. I thought I would be disconnected from the world and that truly I would be sitting at home bored out of my mind. Do you want to know what Jackie and I found….that addiction controlled us. since letting it go we have never been more entertained in life. We have time to go outside and enjoy it. We go on hikes, we go fishing, we spend time with our son. That addiction was the consumer nature that consumed us. And God does not want us to be consumed. God desires for us to be fulfilled. If you are being consumed by something, an addiction, an unwillingness to let go of worldly wisdom, God is asking you to lay it down and place your trust not in that thing or substance you are addicted to, but to place your trust in God. And paradoxically God will use even you and your weakness for his glory.  “If you feel as though the problems you have are above you, remember they are still beneath God’s feet” Because that is what the cross does for us. The cross breaks down those barriers that we had from God. And God’s greatest characteristic is shown the best not by power, but in a display of weakness, as Jesus says, “to give up your life for the ones you love is admirable, but to do so for your enemies is the greatest form of love one has to give.” And Jesus showed great authority and power in the paradoxical nature of the cross, that through his weakness he loved even the vilest and greatest offender of God. And God is not the only paradoxical nature in Christianity, but so are the people, God’s church. God’s church is not made up of powerful and wise and aristocratic people, but we are made up of the weak, the foolish, and the poor. And by God’s wisest of ways, God uses the least of us for the greatest power. And God has done this time and time again throughout scripture. God called Moses, who was a horrible speaker to speak for God. God used Paul who was a murderer of Christians to be the most well known evangelist in all of time. God used Paul to speak in front of many, even though Paul was seen as “his bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible.” God called David, a shepherd boy to show great authority over the greatest of warriors And God still calls the weak to show strength.. God called me, who was in speech therapy for 6 years, who only my parents could understand as a child, who had to use hooked on phonix as a child to preach and proclaim God’s good news. The cross, is a sign to us, that God chose to be weak to show us God’s love, and that we too who are weak, when guided by God’s wisdom can do great and wonderful things.   *Note The Commentary Series “Feasting on the Word” was a primary source for the research and writing of this message.

Living for Jesus

This week’s sermon focused on what it means to live for Jesus. If you missed the message, or simply would like to listen to it again, please click play below. Also, the Scripture Reading is below:

Psalm 22:23-31

You who fear the Lord, praise him!

All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;

stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

For he did not despise or abhor

the affliction of the afflicted;

he did not hide his face from me,

but heard when I cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;

my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied;

those who seek him shall praise the Lord.

May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember

and turn to the Lord;

and all the families of the nations

shall worship before him.

For dominion belongs to the Lord,

and he rules over the nations.

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;

before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,

and I shall live for him.

Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord,

and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,

saying that he has done it.

 

Mark 8:31-38

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

A Season of Reflection

Due to the weather we had to cancel services this morning. However, the message has been recorded and I pray that you all will be blessed in the hearing of this message. The scriptures for today are below the play button.

IMG_3086

Worship Arts by: Trish Severs

 

Psalm 25:1-10

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
    do not let me be put to shame;
    do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
    let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Mark 1: 9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

 

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Holiness Looks Like Jesus

If you missed this past week due to the cold or any other reason, but wish to hear the message, click play below. The scripture text used is below. Stay warm and stay safe!

 

2 Corinthians 4: 3-6
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Mark 9:2-9
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Holiness: God and Others

This week’s sermon focused on Holiness in relationship to God and Others. If you missed the message, or simply would like to listen to it again, please click play below. Also, the Scripture Reading is below:

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Mark 1:29-39

            As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured 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. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Encouraging Holiness

If you missed this past Sunday, or was working in the Children’s Church/Nursery, please feel to click the play button to hear our sermon from this past week. Below is the scripture text used.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.  “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.  But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

 

Mark 1:21-28

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with a demon, and he cried out, “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.” But said, speaking harshly to the demon “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.