Monthly Archives: September 2012

“Times Like These” – Mark 13:1-27


If you just read this week’s passage, your first thoughts were probably not that this Sunday’s sermon topic will be encouraging!  Yet, I think encouragement is exactly what Jesus had in mind as He warned the four disciples about the impending events described in Mark 13.  Jesus had given lots of warnings to those outside the kingdom of God, but now He was warning those on the inside.  Jesus was clearly envisioning a time when He would not be there to guide His disciples.  It was meant to be an encouragement to His followers in His absence.  While the timing of a few of the prophecies Jesus mentions are somewhat difficult to nail down with complete certainty, the warnings given to His followers are to be taken seriously by all those in the kingdom of God today.

Jesus was trying to show the disciples that the destruction of the temple would not be the “end” of the world (in both senses of the word) but rather the “birth” of a new era where the Gospel would spread rapidly based on the dispersion of Jesus’ disciples.  It would, however, mean that the destruction of the temple was not the end of the suffering but was a continuation of it, as they were to be Christ’s witnesses to the world.

Please take a few minutes to find encouragement in the midst of difficulty as you read this week’s passage.  Also, ask yourself, “Am I able to persevere under the types of conditions and hardships we’re told to expect?”  Do you believe we are know living in times like these?

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And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose. (Acts 11:21–23)

I can hardly believe that it has been nearly a year and a half since you called me to be your pastor and provided me with the opportunity to minister alongside you.  I have been in awe of and encouraged by all that God has done with us.  And I do mean ALL of us!  The Holy Spirit has worked the Church’s vision to be one body of disciple making disciples into the entire church family and it has been evident in many different ways, but particularly in your faithfulness.

Your willingness to follow through and reorganize our church government to reflect the model revealed in Scripture is just one testimony to that faithfulness.  The leaders who God called and you elected, and those they appointed grabbed ahold of the church’s mission and led us through a year of incredibly fruitful ministry.  That fruitfulness was soon revealed as we collectively trusted our Lord to do all He promised, provided we were faithful to our call.

So what lies ahead in the coming year?  How can we continue to see God’s grace abound despite trials, challenges and a culture that seems disinterested in the Gospel?  A good place to look for an answer might be the early church in Antioch.  The Jewish believers scattered following the persecution, under Saul, that arose with the martyrdom of Stephen.  Many of them scattered to the northern Mediterranean city of Antioch and lived among the Hellenists (Greek speaking non-Jews).  In that city, the early Christians were faithful to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, causing many of their Hellenist neighbors to believe.  It was a testimony to the power of the Gospel for salvation (Romans 1:16) resulting from the faithfulness of the Church to its mission.  Hearing of this, the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to check it out.  Upon arrival Barnabas was overjoyed to see God’s grace abound among both the Greeks and the Jews.  And it is Barnabas’s advice to the church in Antioch that we must also take heed: “He exhorted them to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” (Acts 11:23)   Like us, that church knew something about trials and challenges and was surrounded by a culture disinterested in the Gospel.  Yet, in order to see God’s grace upon grace continue, they were told they must remain faithful to the Lord and steadfast in His mission.  That, too, is where we must remain in the coming year if we are to continue in God’s grace.

There is much that we can learn from the early Church, especially in the area of faithfulness.  That’s one of the reasons why we’ll be spending a good portion of our Sunday mornings together in 2013 looking at its faithful journey by reading the book of Acts.  My hope and prayer is that it will serve to equip, encourage and lead us into greater faithfulness in the years ahead.  May we run the race well, to receive an imperishable reward, not as those who do so aimlessly, but as those who have been given purpose. And when the race is finished, may our Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

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Haves and Have Nots – Mark 12:35-44

Perhaps you’ve read or heard the hoopla and accolades for Bill Gates and Warren Buffet this past week, as they reportedly persuaded 11 more of their billionaire peers to give their money away, or at least a portion of it.  Gates and Buffet have been on a quest to have other billionaires sign a pledge to give away half of their income while they are still living, and they currently have 92 billionaire families on board.  This represents quite a donor powerhouse, especially as they begin to coordinate and collaborate on how it will be donated.  As you read the list of donors, it is a who’s who of influence, privilege and status.  They are living examples of the “American dream” and serve to encourage others who want to be like them.

I don’t necessarily intend judgment on or applause for Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the other 90 billionaire families, their lifestyles or their values.  I would, however, like to suggest that we think about the values and lifestyle Jesus implies are representative of the kingdom of God, according to our passage from Mark’s gospel this week.  It’s not too surprising that the things most valued by the world are often of least value in the kingdom of God.  Similarly, those who seem to have it all, we sometimes find out, have very little at all, while those who seem to have very little are those who have it all.  Please consider the values and qualities Jesus implies are representative of His kingdom and how that may challenge you (it certainly challenges me) to live by grace for Him.

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“Decision 2012” – Mark 12:13-17

Has this been one of the nastiest campaign seasons in recent memory or is it just that I’ve forgotten how ugly these political cycles can be?  There have been barbs, false accusations, violent acts and deceiption at the local, state and national levels.  Yet, the political temperature in this country is, at best, lukewarm compared to the political temperature in Israel during the decades surrounding Jesus’ life and earthly ministry.

Thankfully, in God’s providence, we find ourselves at a spot in Mark’s gospel where Jesus provides us with a relevant and foundational truth on this issue of politics.  There is much to be learned from it and applied to our own lives, especially as the fire gets turned up during the march to the general election in November.  If you find yourself getting enraged by this or that candidate, Jesus has something to say to you.  If you are not sure what you’ll do if your candidate loses, Jesus has something to say to you.  If you’re thinking, “if things don’t go my way in November, I’m going to ignore the results,” Jesus has something to say to you.

Jesus is not impartial with regard to politics.  He didn’t say “revolt” but He also didn’t say “roll over.” What Jesus reveals about the nature of politics, in this week’s passage, will have ramifications for the decision you make on November 6th and far beyond.

Join us for worship on Sunday morning at 10:30.

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