A&D Biker Ministries "Growing the Kingdom of God . . . one Biker at a time"

July 24, 2021
 
“Turning Trials into Triumph”
James 1:1-4
  
(A sermon series on Practical Christianity)
 
University of Michigan psychologist Robert Zajonc conducted an experiment.  He analyzed photographs of couples taken when they were newlyweds and photographs of the same couples taken 25 years later.
 
The results showed that the couples had grown to look more like each other over time.  And, the happier that the couple said they were, the more likely they were to have increased in their physical similarity.
 
The same principle is at work in our relationship with Jesus.  Having been created in God’s image, we are supposed to “resemble” him.  Yet sin has distorted that image.  Thankfully, God sent Jesus to restore what has been distorted.  That’s what makes Christianity - all of Christianity - practical.  
 
Just like couples in a happy, loving relationship . . . the longer we walk with Jesus, the more we begin to look like him.  Are you happily “married” to Jesus? DOES IT SHOW?
 
We will spend the next few week in chapter 1 of the book of James . . . in a mini sermon series about Practical Christianity.  Today’s scripture speaks to “Turning Trials Into Triumph.”  
  
James 1:1-4 (NIV)
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:  Greetings.  2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
 
Have you heard this statement?  “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade!”
 
I’ll admit that this is much easier said than done . . . but the idea is pretty sound!  In fact, I’d even say that this idea is Biblical.
 
Many Bible characters have shown, that with God’s help, they did turn defeat into victory and trials into triumph.  Instead of remaining VICTIMS . . . they became VICTORS!!!  As Christians, we too have the choice to be either victims or victors.  In fact, the New Testament book of James tells us that we can have this same experience today.  Whether we face trials on the outside or temptations on the inside . . . we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, can have victory over them!
 
OK.  How?  Through faith in God and obedience to Jesus Christ - we CAN experience victory over trials and temptations!  And, just like with the lemon / lemonade deal . . . IT’S ALL A MATTER OF OUR ATTITUDE!
 
Let’s look at what James says about the process of turning our trials into triumph.
1. WELCOME TO “THE TRIBE”   (1:1)
 
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:  Greetings. 
 
What James is saying, is . . . “Hello, fellow members of the Christian family!  This writing is for ALL BELIEVERS - who are all around the world.”
 
 
2. “JOY TO THE WORLD . . . TRIALS HAVE COME!”   (1:2)
 
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 
 
Notice that James just assumes that we all WILL  experience trials in our lives.  He doesn’t say “if” but “whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
 
This is because Christians WILL face trials!
 
John 16:33 (NLT)
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”   -Jesus-
 
Acts 14:21-22
21 They had preached the gospel in that city and made many disciples.  Then they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples by exhorting them to continue in the faith, and telling them that through many trials we must enter the kingdom of God.  (Paul’s writing)
 
 
The nature of these trials are various.  Some trials we face are simply because we are human.  We all have known the trials of sickness and accidents, disappointments and death.
 
Others trials that we face are because we are a Christian:
 
1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT)
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.  13 Instead, be very glad - for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
 
2 Timothy 3:11-12 (NLT)
11 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured . . . but the Lord rescued me from all of it.  12 Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  
 
 
So, what should the Christian response be to trials and persecution and suffering?  James says -
2 Consider it pure joy . . .
 
This was the attitude of the apostles . . .
 
Acts 5:41 (CEV)
The apostles left the council and were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus.
 
This was the attitude of Paul . . .
 
Romans 5:3 (NLT)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.
 
Philippians 2:17-18 (NLT)
17 But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God.  And I want all of you to share that joy.  18 Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.
 
This was the attitude of other Christians . . .
 
1 Peter 1:6-8; 4:12-14 (NLT)
6 So be truly glad.  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.  7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold - though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.  8 You love him even though you have never seen him.  Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.
 
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.  13 Instead, be very glad - for   suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.  14 If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. 
 
 
So, we must first ask God to help us have a JOYFUL attitude.
 
 
3. TRIALS + TESTING = PATIENCE   (1:3)
 
3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 
 
If you understand the value of trials to you, as a Christian, it makes it possible to understand that trials test our faith, and faith tested can bring out the best in us . . . like the way fire purifies gold!
1 Peter 1:7 (NLT)
These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold - though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
 
Also, trials test our faith just as training makes an athlete stronger!  With this understanding we can have joy in trials, because we know that . . .
 
Testing works for us not against us -
 
2 Corinthians 4:17 (NLT)
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
 
Trials rightly used can make us mature, and faith tested produces patience -
 
Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
 
In the Bible, ‘patience’ is NOT a passive acceptance of circumstance.  The Greek word for patience means “under” and “to remain / to abide.”
 
Patience is the ability to exhibit steadfastness and consistency in the face strongest opposition.  It is a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering!
 
“And, such a quality of steadfast endurance can
only come through the experience of trials.”
 
 
4. RUN FORWARD AND COMPLETE THE RACE   (1:4)
 
4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
 
To really turn trials into triumph, we have to allow patience to do its work.  Too often we want our trials to end quickly.  Make it short and sweet, RIGHT?  But, there are times where we need to bear up under the trial patiently . . . because when patience has its opportunity to work, it produces maturity in us.
 
4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete . . .
 
“Complete” does not mean sinless, but whole in spiritual maturity.  In this verse, James is describing those who have attained to spiritual adulthood in Jesus Christ; those who are no longer “spiritual babies” / immature persons in Christ; those who have reached a most full understanding and maturity in spiritual matters.
This spiritual concept is much like the physical reality of an endurance runner.  
 
Our oldest son, Steve, decided that he wanted to run a marathon.  Run, 26.2 miles, just for fun and as a personal challenge to himself!  (My wife’s oldest son has never been quite right, in his thinking.)  This was NOT a sanctioned, posted, open, or advertised marathon.  It was a route that he laid out himself around northern Racine . . . the starting and finishing line being at his family’s home on Ruby Street.     
 
For MANY weeks, Steve trained - running miles every day, and steadily increasing the daily miles he would run from 5 to 8; from 8 to 12; from 12 to 16, etc.
 
A few days before “his marathon date” - Saturday, June 19, 2021 - Steve was nervous about the reality of actually being able to run the entire 26.2 miles. 
 
Donna and I were driving down to Tennessee, on our Anniversary vacation, the Saturday that Steve ran his marathon.  As he ran, he recorded a few very short video clips of himself and sent them in a pre-selected group text to family members and some friends.  In one video clip he was at the half way point in his run - 13.1 miles.  As he ran, he simply said, “Half way done.  Feeling surprisingly good.  Half way.  Still a long way to go.”  These video clips were fun for us as a family, and also encouraging and motivational for Steve as he grinded on through his marathon.  
 
There were several other video clips, including one of Katie and Vinnie tracking him down in their car . . . and giving him a bottle of water . . . and shouting words of encouragement to him.
 
Months and months of training and running, mile after mile, Steve persistently believed that it would all pay off in his marathon.
 
One of the most powerful of the video clips, for me, was Steve nearing the end of his marathon.  He says seven (7) words which I think are profound for ALL of us who are running their race of life for Jesus, as a Christian.  Especially when we’re tired, tempted or going through painful trials.  Steve simply said, “Three miles left.  This is really hard!”    
 
If you and I want to run a spiritually good race - we need to adopt patience . . . which only happens through spiritual resistance training.  That is, TRIALS!
 
We need to have the knowledge and perspective that adversity / trials / struggle can accomplish so much good in our spiritual development.  We MUST allow the patient enduring of adversity to accomplish its work in us!
 
Romans 6:5-8
5 Since we have been united with Christ in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.  6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives.  We are no longer slaves to sin.  7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.  8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.
 
If you are “united” with God then he is calling you to use the strength he is giving you.  If you have not yet been united with Jesus, he is pleading with you today to take this opportunity to make it right with him and become a child of his.
 
Romans 6:3-4 (NIV)
3 Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
 
Matthew 5:10-11 (NLT)
10 “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.  11 God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.”
 
 
When all of this is a living reality in our lives . . . we CAN truly turn our lemons in life into lemonade!
 
HERE IS MY CHALLENGE TO YOU:  every day this week, read James 1:1-4, in as many different versions / translations as you can find.  Think about and pray over these verses.  With God’s help, commit to live out these verses!
 
James 1:1-4 (NIV)
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:  Greetings.  2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
  
    
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
July 17, 2021
 
Bible HERstory
(A sermon series on women in the Bible)
 
“An Inquisitive Woman At A Well”
John 4:1-42
 
So often, we focus on the men in the Bible and we forget about the other unsung heroes in scripture.  WOMEN played a vital role in the Bible!
 
And, many of these women had children and raised a family, but they also did other heroic things like risking their lives to establish peace, and offering wisdom as judges, etc.
 
Jesus’ earthly ministry was partly financed by women.  (Remember Mary & Martha, the brother of Lazarus?)  Jesus didn’t have to worry about the money because the women took care of that.
 
Today our scripture will look at yet another unnamed woman in the Bible, found in John 4:1-42.  She had quite the reputation, if you know what I mean!  And then, she met Jesus.  
 
From time to time, all of us have felt the sting of rejection.  It may have been a rejection from our friends, our families, our jobs, or maybe even our church.  Rejection brings with it pain and suffering, the feeling of abandonment and loss.  And nobody in their right mind looks forward to those feelings!
 
The Gospel of John invites us into another unnamed woman’s life, where rejection is a familiar reality.
 
John 4:1-42 (NLT)
1 Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them - his disciples did).  3 So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.  4 He had to go through Samaria on the way.  5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.  6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.  7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”  8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.  9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.  She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman.  Why are you asking me for a drink?”  10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”  11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep.  Where would you get this living water?  12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well?  How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”  13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.  14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.  It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”  15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water!  Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”  16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.  17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.  Jesus said, “You’re right!  You don’t have a husband - 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now.  You certainly spoke the truth!”  19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet.  20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”  21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.  22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews.  23 But the time is coming - indeed it’s here now -when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.  24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”  25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming - the one who is called Christ.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”  27 Just then his disciples came back.  They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?”  28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!  Could he possibly be the Messiah?”  30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him.  31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.”  32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”  33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.  34 Then Jesus explained:  “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.  35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’  But I say, wake up and look around.  The fields are already ripe for harvest.  36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life.  What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!  37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’  And it’s true.  38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”  39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!”  40 When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village.  So he stayed for two days, 41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.  42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves.  Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”
 
 
Our story opens with Jesus traveling throughout the countryside of Samaria  When he came to a well there, he was tired and very thirsty.  So, he sat and a woman came to the well to draw some water for her household.
 
Jesus said to her, “Please, give me a drink.”
 
The Jewish method of keeping time indicates that this happened around noon.  And that was kind of a weird time for a woman to go and draw water . . . during the hottest part of the day.  But, there was a reason for it (maybe avoiding other people?).
Our story tells us that this woman didn’t have a husband.  In fact, as Jesus and this woman are talking, she explains to him that she doesn’t have a husband. 
 
Jesus affirms this, by saying that she actually had had five (5) husbands . . . and right now, she was living with a man that she wasn’t married to!
 
All these facts add up to the truth that she was “looked down on” / rejected by her community - because of her situation / because of her sin.  (Was it the pain of rejection from the other ladies and from the community that drove her to gather the water at this time of the day?)
 
Jesus and this unnamed woman talked.  There wasn’t great public opinion of women (by men) back then - and rarely did “strangers of mixed gender” speak to one another.  But here THEY are!  She was a Samaritan and Jesus was a Jew.  Remember, Jews and Samaritans did NOT get along - so, they would NOT speak to each other.  Again, here THEY are!    
 
Spoiler Alert:  This Samaritan woman was a believer!  That is, she had faith that the promised Messiah was indeed coming to save humankind:
 
25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming - the one who is called Christ.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  
 
Her questions to Jesus demonstrated her desire and willingness to learn and grow.  And maybe it’s because of her questions and her sincerity to grow, that Jesus revealed who he was to her!
 
26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”  
 
Jesus told her that he is the Messiah, the Christ!  Now don’t miss this next part.  When she heard that Jesus was the Messiah . . . SHE BELIEVED HIM!  
 
By now, the disciples are returning from the town.  Jesus had sent them off to look for some food for them to eat.  When the woman saw the disciples, she left her water jar at the well and ran back to town to tell everyone about Jesus!
 
Meanwhile, back at the well . . . Jesus & the disciples were they are talking.  Many people came out from the town to hear and to see Jesus.  And it was all because the woman that Jesus spoke to was filled with the Holy Spirit and she told the other people in the town about him!  The “holy fire” spread into their spirits, and they wanted to see for themselves WHO this woman was talking about.  So, they came to see Jesus for themselves.
 
The people of the town came and saw and heard Jesus.  Many of them also believed, and they asked Jesus and his followers to stay with them in town.
 
Here are some truths that we should learn from this inquisitive woman:
• As empty as this woman must have been, Jesus met her where she was and he filled all of the spiritual and emotional emptiness in her life.
Jesus will meet you right where you are, right now, also!  He will fill the voids in your life, too. 
 
• Once we have the Good News of Jesus Christ, we need to share it (share him) with others.
 
It seems to me that Christians are good at hording Jesus for ourselves, instead of sharing him with others.
 
• Never stop asking questions and striving to have a deeper relationship with Jesus.
 
Just as this woman kept asking Jesus questions, and wanted to know more, we must always thirst for more from Christ.  And as you do, I promise that you will be satisfied!
  
• Finally, true conversion requires conviction!
 
That was why Jesus told her to go get her husband.  She was forced her to admit her sin!  
 
There must first be conviction and repentance, and then there can be faith in Christ to save you!  Jesus can awaken and intrigue our mind and stir our emotions, but he also has to touch our conscience . . . and that means dealing with our sin.
 
It’s odd that when this encounter at the well took place Jesus had NOT yet revealed who he was to his closest followers.  Instead, he revealed himself to an unnamed Samaritan woman . . . at a well.  
 
Do you think that was because he just needed to share this with someone?  Or, was it because this broken woman believed  . . . and Jesus knew her heart?!
 
I’m very thankful for this unnamed, woman, and the example of her openness, honesty and searching - in Bible HERstory.  May we ALL reflect her commitment to God, in our lives!s
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sermons    

 

 

July 3, 2021

 

“Bible HERstory”

(A sermon series on women in the Bible)

 

“A POOR WIDOW”

Mark 12:41-44

 

So often, we focus on the men in the Bible and we forget about the other unsung heroes in scripture.  WOMEN played a vital role in the Bible!

 

And, many of these women had children and raised a family, but they also did heroic other things like risking their lives to establish peace, and offering wisdom as judges, etc.

 

Jesus’ earthly ministry was partly financed by women.  (Remember Mary & Martha, the brother of Lazarus?)  Jesus didn’t have to worry about the money because the women took care of that.

 

Today our scripture will look at another unnamed woman in the Bible.  She came to the Temple to worship.  She understood that part of worship is giving to God - offerings of money - which help to support the ongoing ministries of the Church.

 

Now, many people give financial gifts in the church offering . . . but that really doesn’t show their true commitment to God.  Today, we are going to look at a widow, who didn’t give very much at all by society’s standards.  But, as it turns out, she gave everything that she had!

 

Mark 12:41-44 (NLT)

41 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money.  Many rich people put in large amounts.  42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.  (They were called lepta.)  43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions.  44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

 

When our kids were growing up, they participated in several fundraisers.  Some were for the school sports team they were on, or for the Racine Youth Sports program, etc. 

 

Some of the fundraisers were not so big . . . and some were extremely large!  Some were fundraisers for sports equipment, and some were for the purpose of supporting trips the teams would take to play in tournaments somewhere - with many other teams from across the country.  

 

(Flashback:  It was on one of those trips to Florida with his baseball team that our youngest son, Daniel, was bitten on his leg by a brown recluse spider - and developed a serious staph infection!) 

 

Because we didn’t have the money to just pay for our kids to go on the trips, it was important for them to sell as many tubs of cookie dough, or pizzas, or whatever they were selling, as possible, in order to fund their trip.

 

So, year after year, they would walk all over our neighborhood, knocking on doors and asking people to purchase some of what they were selling - to support them and their sports team.

 

The neighborhood we lived in was lower middle class, but despite the monetary situation of our immediate neighbors, and circle of friends, people were generous to help support our boys.  I don’t think that our boys were ever the “top sellers” in the fundraisers, but they did well and earned their way on those trips.  (And, I got to eat a lot of pizzas and cookie dough!)

 

It was always interesting to me that in some of the more well to do neighborhoods, where our boys would go door-to-door with their school fundraiser items, people often didn’t seem to want to buy anything.

 

In our scripture today, Jesus is hanging in the Temple just watching the people coming in and out.  It’s Tuesday, of the week that Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on the donkey and was declared to be the Messiah!  Later that same week, he was brutally killed on a cross.

 

In was during this week, called Passover, that pilgrims from all over the country would come to Jerusalem to celebrate this event.  Passover is a religious festival commemorating God’s deliverance of the Jewish nation from their bondage as slaves in Egypt.

 

“Passover” stems from the last plague that God cast upon Egypt . . . when the Pharaoh would NOT let the Hebrew people leave.  Whoever didn’t have lamb’s blood wiped on the doorframe of their homes, whether Jew or Egyptian, lost their first born son - when the death angel visited that night.  Any home that did have the blood of a lamb painted on their door - the death angel passed over that house and the first born son was spared. 

 

So, here’s Jesus coming to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.  He went into the Temple and literally “cleaned house.”  Merchants were selling items in the worship area and money exchangers were ripping people off by exchanging their money for local currency . . . all for a profit, of course!  Jesus literally turned over their tables and kicked those entrepreneurs out of the Temple!  The religious leaders were furious, but they couldn’t do anything about it at that time.

 

Against a wall of one of the Temple courts were 13 trumpet-shaped collection receptacles (offering baskets) for receiving the money gifts / contributions from those who had come to worship.

 

From a good vantage point, Jesus simply observed how the Passover crowd put their money into the Temple treasury.

 

In contrast with many wealthy people who gave large amounts (literally many coins of variety - gold, silver, copper, and bronze), one poor and unnamed widow gave just two lepta.

 

A lepta was the smallest bronze Jewish coin in circulation in Palestine.  Two lepta were worth 1/64 of a Roman denarius . . . in our terms today, they were worth a fraction of a penny!

 

After Jesus watched this woman put her money in the offering basket, he called his disciples over and spoke to them . . .

 

43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions.  44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.  The others gave out of their material wealth at little cost to them, but the widow out of her poverty gave everything.”

 

Proportionally, percentage-wise, in full reality - this widow had given the most of anyone.  THIS WOMAN GAVE ALL THAT SHE HAD TO LIVE ON!

 

In giving to God sacrificially she completely entrusted herself to GOD to provide her needs.  I mean, she could have kept back one coin for herself!  Right?  BUT SHE DIDN’T!

 

Jesus used her example to teach his disciples the value God places on wholehearted commitment.  (Remember, in just a few days, the disciples’ own commitment to Jesus would be severely tested!)

 

This passage could speak to us in several ways. 

 

  • We could talk about money and how important it is to give.

 

  • We could talk about charity and helping others.

 

  • We could talk about Jesus continuing to teach his disciples about life and faith and righteousness.

 

But, Jesus looked right through the flesh of this woman . . . and at her heart.  SHE WAS TOTALLY COMMITTED TO GOD!

 

The money she put in the offering was evident of that.  No, it wasn’t $100 or $1,000 like some of the others put it, but . . . it was everything that she had!

 

It’s like ordering a delicious ham, sausage, and bacon omelet at Meli Café.  Which contributor to that breakfast shows the most commitment to that meal?  The chicken or the pig? 

 

The commitment in what this poor widow woman gave represented more than all of the other people - combined!

 

No matter where we are, no matter what we are doing, Jesus is standing there - observing us.  Now that will either be a promise or a problem, for you!

 

HOW COMMITTED ARE YOU TO GOD? 

Do your actions show it?  

 

Does your heart show it?  

 

Does your giving show it?  

 

How committed are you to God?

 

I’m thankful for this unnamed woman, and the example of her faith and commitment to God - even when she had so very little material / financial blessings in life - in Bible HERstory.  May we ALL reflect her faith and commitment to God, in our lives!

 

 

June 26, 2021

 

“Bible HERstory”

(A sermon series on women in the Bible)

 

“Mother Jochebed”

Exodus 2:1-10

 

So often, we focus on the men in the Bible and we forget about the other unsung heroes in scripture.  WOMEN played a vital role in the Bible!

 

And, many of these women had children and raised a family, but they also did other heroic things like risking their lives to establish peace, and offering wisdom as judges, etc.

 

Jesus’ earthly ministry was partly financed by women.  (Remember Mary & Martha, the brother of Lazarus?)  Jesus didn’t have to worry about the money because the women took care of that.

 

Today our scripture will look at a woman in the Bible, name Jochebed.  As a mom, she had to make some difficult decisions . . . as all moms do.  In the end, it was her strong faith that brought her through! Bottom of Form

 

From time to time, all of us have felt the sting of rejection.  It may have been a rejection from our friends, our families, our jobs, or maybe even our church.  Rejection brings with it pain and suffering, the feeling of abandonment and loss.  And nobody in their right mind looks forward to those feelings!

 

Exodus 2:1-10 invites us into another woman’s life, named Jochebed, where rejection is a familiar word.

 

A second grade teacher had been giving a lesson on science.  She had explained about magnets and showed how they would pick up nails and other bits of iron.

 

Now it was question time, and she asked, “My name begins with the letter “M” and I pick up things.  What am I?”

 

Billy, a little boy on the front row, waved his hand and proudly answered, “You’re a Mother!”

 

Mothers ARE very special people in our lives!

 

When I stop to think about it, I’m amazed at how much my mom sacrificed for me . . . to give birth to me and to help raise me up.  Being a mom is NOT an easy thing to do.  Sometimes, there are difficult decisions that they have to make.

 

There was an article in a magazine where a 1 year old had such a serious medical condition that only an experimental medical procedure might help her.  Otherwise she would die in a very short time.  Some members of her family were strongly opposed to going ahead with it. 

The parents agonized over what to do.  Should they run the risk of her dying from the surgery - or go ahead with it?  It was a difficult decision, to say the least.  They ended up going with the surgery, and after a long process the little girl did recover.  She is now almost 8 years old.

 

Our scripture today is about a mom, named Jochebed, who had to make a very difficult decision for the safety of her child . . .

 

Exodus 2:1-10 (NLV)

1 Now a man of the family of Levi married a daughter of Levi.  2 She was going to have a baby, and she gave birth to a son.  When she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months.  3 But the time came when she could hide him no longer.  So she took a basket made from grass, and covered it with tar and put the child in it.  And she set it in the grass by the side of the Nile.  4 His sister stayed to watch and find out what would happen to him.  5 Then the daughter of Pharaoh came to wash herself in the Nile.  Her young women walked beside the Nile.  She saw the basket in the tall grass and sent the woman who served her to get it.  6 She opened it and saw the child.  The boy was crying.  She had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”  7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Should I go and call a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.”  So the girl went and called the child’s mother.  9 Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me.  And I will pay you.”  So the woman took the child and nursed him.  10 The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter.  And he became her son.  She gave him the name Moses, saying, “Because I took him out of the water.”

 

This story goes way back into the beginning chapters of Exodus.  The Hebrew people were living in the land of Egypt under the reign of Joseph.  Remember Joseph?  His brothers were jealous of how much their father loved Joseph (he gave him a coat of many colors ).  They sold Joseph into slavery, and he became Potiphar’s servant.  Eventually, Joe became Pharaoh’s right hand man - in charge of Egypt!

 

Joseph brought his father, and his whole family, to Egypt because of the great famine that was all over Egypt.  Eventually, Joseph died.  So did the Pharaoh. 

 

A new Pharaoh took over.  The new Pharaoh was not appreciative of the Hebrew people . . . and he made all of the Hebrew people slaves to himself and Egypt.  Every day, the slaves task was to make bricks for the Pharaoh’s building projects.  (Have you heard of the Great Pyramids?)

 

Well, God continued to bless the Hebrew people and they multiplied greatly in population.  Now, Pharaoh became afraid of the Hebrew people, and he forced all baby boys born to be thrown into the Nile River and drowned.  The girls could live . . . but the boys were killed!

 

(When I think of the 4 children that Donna and I were blessed to have, 3 boys and 1 girl, I cannot even imagine taking any of my infant sons and throwing them into a river to die.  However, there were a couple of times, when they got older, that . . . NEVER MIND!)

 

Seriously, I cannot fathom the pain and the suffering that these Hebrew people faced while they were under the oppression of that Pharaoh!

So, in the middle of all of this mess, a woman named Jochebed decided to hide her baby boy in an effort to try and save his life.  As we read in our Bible story, Jochebed hid her son, Moses, for three months.  When she realized that she couldn’t hide him any longer, she made the difficult decision to make a papyrus basket for him . . . coat it with tar and pitch . . . and place him in the basket to float down the Nile River!

 

Can you even imagine the fear and agony and dread that Jochebed must have felt?  How hard it had to be to set her baby afloat upon the powerful Nile River.

 

What if the basket tipped over and the baby ended up drowning anyway?  What if the baby just floated there for days on end and died a horrible death of exposure to the sun and heat dehydration?  And remember where he was floating!  What about the crocodiles living in Nile River and sunning themselves along the banks?  Just like Yogi Bear, this would look to them like a “Pic-A-Nic Basket!”  Yummy!!

 

But, Jochebed had no choice.  If she kept him at home, Pharaoh’s soldiers would come and take her baby boy for sure - and execute her precious son. 

 

That day must have been the longest, hardest, darkest day of mother Jochebed’s life.

 

Moses did go down the Nile River . . . BUT, our story doesn’t end there!  He was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter and she took Moses home and raised him like her own child.

 

Pharaoh’s daughter did not know that Jochebed was Moses’ real mama - so, Jochebed even got to nurse Moses a while, for the Pharaoh’s daughter!

 

Being a mom today IS NOT EASY.  and, BEING A MOM in Biblical times was not easy!

 

Mama Jochebed sent her heart, her flesh, and her soul down that old river.  She had to make some seriously difficult choices.  But Jochebed also trusted Moses, her baby boy, into God’s care.

 

How strong is your walk with God?

 

If it isn’t strong now, how will you withstand all of the forthcoming challenges in the future?

 

I’m thankful for this woman, this mother - named Jochebed, and the example of her faith in God even when she was faced with making lifechanging decisions in Bible HERstory.  May we ALL reflect her commitment to God, in our lives!

 

 

June 12, 2021

 

“Bible HERstory”

(A sermon series on women in the Bible)

 

Jephthah’s Daughter

“A Woman Of Faith And Grace”

Judges 11:29-40

 

So often, we focus on the men in the Bible and we forget about the other unsung heroes in scripture.  WOMEN played a vital role in the Bible!

 

And, many of these women had children and raised a family, but they also did heroic other things like risking their lives to establish peace, and offering wisdom as judges, etc.

 

Jesus’ earthly ministry was partly financed by women.  (Remember Mary & Martha, the brother of Lazarus?)  Jesus didn’t have to worry about the money because the women took care of that.

 

Today our scripture will look at another unnamed woman in the Bible, found in Judges chapter 11, who is lifted up as a young lady of unbelievable grace and faith!  

 

How many of US have ever done something that was really dumb?  Have you ever promised something that you could not fulfill?  Or, have you ever put your foot in your mouth?

 

Judges 11:29-40 (NLV)

29 The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah.  So he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and through Mizpah of Gilead.  He went from Mizpah of Gilead to the people of Ammon.  30 Jephthah made a promise to the Lord and said, “You give the people of Ammon into my hand.  31 And I will give to the Lord whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the people of Ammon.  I will give it to the Lord as a gift and sacrifice.”  32 Then Jephthah crossed over to fight against the people of Ammon.  And the Lord gave them into his hand.  33 He killed many of them from Aroer to Minnith, through twenty cities, as far as Abelkeramin.  The people of Ammon were destroyed in front of the people of Israel.  34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah.  His daughter came out to meet him with music and dancing.  She was his one and only child.  He had no other sons or daughters.  35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “It is bad, my daughter!  You have made me very sad.  You have brought much trouble to me.  For I have made a promise to the Lord, and I must keep it.”  36 She said to him, “My father, you have made a promise to the Lord.  Do to me what you have promised you would do.  Because the Lord has punished the people of Ammon, who fought against you.  37 But do this for me.  Let me alone for two months.  So I and my friends may go to the mountains and cry because I will never marry.”  38 Jephthah said, “Go.”  He sent her away for two months with her friends.  And they cried on the mountains because she would never marry.  39 She returned to her father after two months.  And he did what he promised the Lord and she died without having a man.  From this comes the Israelite tradition 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

We only know this young lady as Jephthah’s daughter.  And besides this scripture passage, we really don’t know much more about her!

 

Her dad, Jephthah, did something really stupid.  I mean . . . it was extremely dumb!  And in the very middle of her dad’s huge mistake, this young lady showed uncompromising faith and grace.  Each time that I read this story about Jephthah’s daughter, in preparing for this message, my heart went out to this Godly and faithful woman.

 

Ok.  Let’s look a little deeper at what’s going on.  During this time in Israel’s history, Israel was without a king. 

 

Joshua had died and the nation of Israel was at war with the Canaanites.

 

For the next several generations, the nation of Israel was up and down, and up and down, in their obedience and disobedience to God.

 

And when Israel was disobedient, God would punish the people.  They would then cry out to God for help, and God would send a Judge . . . someone who would hand out justice, and punish the evil-doers, and vindicate the righteous, and offer wisdom.

 

This “Judge” would lead Israel for some time, then they would die.  Israel would go right back to sinning and disobedience!  God would punish them, they would cry out for help form him, and then God would send another Judge.

 

Jephthah, in our scripture today, was one of those Judges that God sent to help Israel.  Jephthah’s father was Gilead and his mother was a prostitute.

 

And after Gilead’s other sons grew up, they drove Jephthah away because he was not their mothe

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