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

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March 28, 2020

                                      

LENT Sermon Series

 

“THE WAY OF HUMBLE SERVICE”

 

Have you seen, and heard, some of the stories of really good stuff that is happening during this pandemic crisis?  I mean, people helping people . . . in selfless acts of charity! 

 

Have you been that person of humble service & love?

 

John 13:1-15, 20 (NIV)

 1 It was just before the Passover Festival.  Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”  10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.  And you are clean, though not every one of you.”  11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.  12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.  “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.   


20 “Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

 

In this scripture, we see Jesus’ act of humble service, as he was on his way to the Cross.  We also see his desire for all of his disciples to do the same - by living out our lives of faith as an example of loving service to others.

 

14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

 

Today, we join Jesus and those who had been his closest companions, in the Upper Room.  Tension is high - and the disciples’ confusion and anxiety grows by the minute.  Jesus knew that his time had come.  He knew that, soon, he would be betrayed by one of his closest followers. 

He would be handed over to his enemies, to be passed between the Jewish Court of the High Priest and to the Roman Headquarters.  He knew that he would be mocked, and suffer pain and torture, at the hands of his captors . . . before finally being led out to die on a cross.

 

But, in this tense atmosphere, Jesus had an important lesson to teach his friends.  Earlier that evening, Jesus and that group of confused, anxious disciples had shared in the Passover meal - which would be their Last Supper together.  That meal would never have the same meaning for them, ever again.  It would take on a new significance, a new meaning from that evening on throughout all time.  For the broken bread now became, for them, the broken body of Jesus - their beloved Rabbi, brother, teacher and guide.  The poured out wine became, for them, the poured out blood of their Lord and Savior. 

 

In sharing this meal, and what it stood for, Jesus had instituted that which symbolized for them (and for all Christians) the possibility of a new relationship with God.  And that is only possible through the death of Jesus - as he bore the burdens of the sin of the world.  The same sin of the world that broke our original covenant relationship with God!

 

That Last Supper with Jesus brought the disciples together as one body - in Jesus’ name.  They were one in community, one in faith, and one in their doubts - as they shared together in the pain and suffering that was the destiny of Christ.  The disciples couldn’t understand it, yet, but the pain and suffering would be transformed by New Life in all its fullness!

 

Together, as a body of believers, in all their shared doubts and confusion, Jesus now gave them a vivid example of what it really means to live out their faith, to follow him, to be his disciples.  Jesus took off his robe and tied a towel around his waist.  He poured water into a bowl.  He knelt down in front of his disciples, and washed their feet.

 

The utter sense of shock at this action of Jesus’ must have stunned them into silence.  It was considered the utmost insult not to welcome a guest into your house by providing a bowl of water for them to wash their own feet.  BUT, not even the lowliest of slaves would be expected to wash the feet of another person! 

 

But here he is, Jesus, their Rabbi, kneeling down on the floor . . . gently placing the feet of his friends in the water, then wiping them dry with the towel tied around his waist.

 

In that atmosphere of tension, the disciples are now shocked!  Shock and dismay that is only voiced by Simon Peter, in his characteristically outspoken way.  He says to Jesus, “You will never wash MY feet!”  Jesus responds by gently telling him that, unless he washes his feet, Peter cannot share with him - cannot be part of the new community of believers who live out their faith in their lives.  Again, right on cue, Peter explodes with emotion as he exclaims, “Then not my feet only, but my hands and my head too!”  Peter does not understand what Jesus is doing (nor do the other disciples).  They do not understand what Jesus is ‘SAYING’ by his example.  So, Jesus explains.

 

To live a life of faith in its truest sense means to act and to live in faith - that is, complete trust in God! 

It means to be able to see, and to respond to, the needs of others, no matter what worries and distress they - as God’s creation - are experiencing. 

To grow in faith . . . and to act on God’s will in our lives . . . we must learn to SEE AND ACT in the light of God’s Holy Spirit within us.  We must trust God’s spirit to guide us in ways of service, putting our own needs second to the needs of others.

 

In other words, Jesus knew his time had come.  He knew all the physical pain and emotional suffering he would encounter as he endured torture, humiliation, and the pain of separation from those he loved.  Yet, he saw through all HIS own personal suffering to the needs of others (his disciples) in their need.  He saw their distress, doubts and inner pain, and he sought to respond to their needs . . . even as he suffered.  Yes, Jesus knew that it would get worse.  Peter, the one who swore that he would remain loyal to the death, would deny that he even KNEW his Lord and Master.  Jesus knew that his friends would be frozen with fear, once he had gone from them, and that he would find them - on that Third Day - hiding behind locked doors for their own safety.

 

As Jesus endured his own inner suffering, he saw and responded to the disciples’ needs.  Jesus was not blind to the needs of those around about him.  His teaching the disciples through washing their feet gave them a real example of servanthood:  even Jesus, their Teacher and Lord, did that which not even a slave would be asked to do.  And they must do likewise!  

 

As we emulate / imitate Jesus, OUR example of servanthood will teach and instruct others in the way of true, humble service - the way of LIVING life in faith by trusting God’s guidance - even in the most difficult and challenging times.

 

As Jesus washed the feet of his friends, they must have been reminded of the way in which Mary (sister of Lazarus and Martha) had anointed the feet of Jesus with that expensive perfume not so long ago (John 12:1-8).  Mary could see what was going to happen to Jesus, yet she could also see through her own pain to respond to Jesus’ needs.  She knelt at his feet, and, in the role of humble servant, anointed his feet with that fragrant oil, and wiped them with her own hair.  This was in preparation for his death.

 

The disciples must have also remembered that there was anger in that household that night.  That perfume was extremely expensive and could have been sold for a huge amount of money.  It could have been given to help the poor.  Judas was enraged by what he saw as an act of expensive self-indulgence.  But, he couldn’t see beyond the ‘waste’ or beyond his own anger, to the needs of Jesus - and to the act of humble service that Mary was providing. 

 

Yet, as John tells us, everyone present in that house that evening felt the impact of her service in a very profound way:  the whole house was filled with the fragrance of that costly perfume - NO ONE could escape its aroma!

 

This was certainly an example of true, humble servanthood, as Mary’s act of selfless generosity pervades the lives of everybody present.  Her example shows that serving one person, in the hour of their need, does in fact influence others in their own lives of faith. 

 

Those who can see beyond their own need (even in this unprecedented time of COVID-19) . . . no matter how great that need might be . . . to serve others in THEIR need, truly perform acts of LOVING humble service. And your life of faith will be an example to everyone - in Jesus’ name. 

 

May we strive to do the same, as we continue toward the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and victory over sin / hell / death - on Easter Sunday!

 

 

 

March 21, 2020

                                      

LENT Sermon Series

 

“RIGHTEOUS ANGER”

 

A preacher was once talking about death-bed conversions, and he asked a Christian woman in his congregation, “Do you think that a death-bed repentance does away with a whole life of sin?”  Quietly she answered, “No . . . but, the Cross of Jesus does!”  The season of Lent, leading us to Good Friday and ultimately Easter, is all about the Cross!

 

John 2:13-22 (NIV)

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here!  Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”  17 His disciples remembered that it is written:  “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”  19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”  20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”  21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.  22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said.  Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

 

Have you heard of Emily Post?  She was born sometime in the early 1870’s and died in 1960.  What made her famous was a book she wrote called Etiquette.  This book, which ran through ten editions, taught people how to get along ‘politely’ in society!

 

Some of what she said was good.  For example, have you ever been to a really swanky restaurant and been confused by the array of different knives, forks and spoons around your plate?  I’ve been there, but only once or twice.  And I’m here to tell you, that is a lot of cutlery to choose from!

 

Did you see the 1997 film Titanic?  Jack Dawson (a young man from ’Steerage’ class) had been invited to dine first class with an extremely rich family and their friends, as a reward for saving the life of young, spirited Rose DeWitt Bukater.  He sits down at table, looks at all of the silverware, and says, “Are all these for me?”

 

Which knife or fork to use first?  That’s the question!  Well, Emily Post wrote, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use!”

 

However, she also wrote, “To do exactly as your neighbors do is the only sensible rule.”  You know:  “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do!”  Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t necessarily seem like very wise advice to me.  In fact, it doesn’t sound very Christ-like.

But isn’t it true that over the centuries the Church has given us a picture of Jesus who is quiet and calm and reserved and always holding a little lamb?  Jesus who was so meek and mild - it’s difficult to imagine anyone getting so angry at him as to want to kill him!  But, the picture of Jesus as ‘meek and mild’ is only half the picture, as we see in our scripture today.

 

Here we have a picture of Jesus we don’t see very often.  It’s the angry Jesus, the loud Jesus, the not so meek-and-mild Jesus.  Let me set the scene.  It’s Passover time - the holiday / holy day celebrated in early spring, to remind people of God’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt, and of God’s fierce judgement ‘passing-over’ the homes of his people that had been marked with the blood of the sacrificial lamb.

 

Passover is a time of unleavened bread, lamb and herbs.  It’s a time of sacrifices and pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer prayer.

 

But, the sight that greets Jesus there, that day, as he and his disciples arrive to prepare to observe Passover, REALLY TICKED HIM OFF.  Verse 14 says that, in the Temple courts, Jesus “found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.”  The word ‘courts’ means the outer courtyards of the Temple, rather than the inner sanctuary.  In fact, the temple courtyards was the place reserved for the ‘gentiles’ (non-Jews) to worship.

 

In the place for the gentiles to worship the space reserved for them had been taken up with a whole variety of stalls, selling all sorts of stuff - especially related to the Passover ritual of sacrifice, and those changing money.  Pilgrims, Jews and non-Jews alike, came from foreign lands far away, and they needed to exchange their money into the local Temple currency.  After all, on their coins (if they lived within the Roman Empire) bore the image of Caesar, and it would be next to blasphemous to offer these to God.  In addition to changing their money, they would need to buy animals for sacrifice.

 

Maybe, none of this was bad in itself.  After all, the traders were providing an essential service to those who desired to make themselves ‘right’ before God.

 

On the other hand, the traders were so many and took up so much space, they were making it impossible for the gentiles to worship God.  What started with the intention of providing a service - became a disservice!  And Jesus sees this.

 

There is probably more to it as well.  It’s probable that the money-changers were including a very hefty ‘exchange rate tax’ for their service.  It all smacks of these traders making large profits from the religious needs of the ‘faithful’.  So, in his righteous anger, Jesus is reacts against this double injustice of, first, preventing the non-Jewish people from worshipping God, and, second, cheating the worshippers by charging unfair exchange rate tax.  In his words and in his actions (in his anger) Jesus is rebelling against unjust practices that are preventing people getting close to God in worship.  Apparently, sometimes God calls us to be ‘rebels’ and to do the opposite of “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do!”

 

Remember the WWJD era?  You know, bracelets and t-shirts and baseball caps bearing the logo WWJD.  The letters stood for “What Would Jesus Do?”  It was meant to inspire people not to make rash decisions, but rather to imagine, and emulate, what Jesus would do . . . when they found themselves in a any situation.  I always thought to myself, “Well, I’m sure that Jesus wouldn’t pay $ 20.00 for one of those t-shirts!”

 

So, there’s the question!  What would Jesus do?  Our scripture today show us that, sometimes, Jesus went against the grain.  Sometimes Jesus stood up for, and spoke out against the unfair practices and attitudes of his day.  Sometimes, Jesus was a rebel!

 

Maybe we don’t hear this idea very often enough.  The word ‘rebel’ usually carries with it some negative connotations.  Rebelling against society; rebelling against parents, rebelling against God.  And we usually lump all these together and say that rebelling is bad.  Well, let’s think about that for a moment.

 

Is it possible to be a rebel AND be a Christian?  That’s the question!  And it seems that the answer is YES!  It seems that we can, and should, follow Jesus (WWJD?) - and rebel against unfair aspects of society and world affairs, while NOT rebelling against God.  Just look at the OT prophets, speaking out (at great personal risk) against injustice in their life and times.  Look at Jesus in the Temple that day - he was considered to be “rebelling,” acting and speaking out against the unfair / unjust practices associated with his religion in his time - practices that prevented many people from drawing close to God in worship and observing their religious duty.  BUT, Jesus was not rebelling against God.  He wasn’t saying that the whole religious system was wrong and had to be thrown-out.  He was saying that there were flaws and problems in how people were providing services associated with it.

 

So, sometimes as believers, we are called to ‘rebel.’  And I don’t mean rebel against God.  I mean rebel against injustice - against that which is wrong and ungodly.  Sometimes God calls us to rebel against the way that everyone else has got used to doing (or not doing) things.  Sometimes we, as Christian people, are called to rebel against what others (and sometimes it’s the majority) believe to be right.  So, let’s not do something just because it seems like everyone else is doing it.  Let’s not passively “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do” . . . if we believe that there is a better way, a more just and fair way, a more Christlike way (WWJD?).

 

So, there will be times when what we feel GOD is leading us to do will be different from what OTHERS around us are advocating and doing.  And that’s OK!  Yes, it can be scary when we discern God calling us to ‘rebel’, to ‘go against the flow.’  But it’s what God is calling us to do and to be none-the-less, and, at those times, we need to do and to be what GOD wants us to do and be.  It might look like rebellion to others, especially those who want to keep things as they are!  And maybe it IS rebellion!  But it’s a good (GOD) rebellion.  It’s obedience to God’s will.  It’s Christlike.  It’s like John the Baptist, it’s like Elijah and the other prophets of God.  It’s like all the disciples who would not ‘toe’ the party line.  It’s being a rebel with a cause . . . God’s holy cause!

 

Finally, J.B. Phillips, who made his own translation of the Bible, also wrote (among others) a book called Your God Is Too Small.  In it he comments on a line of a verse of the Christmas carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ - the line that says , “Christian children all must be mild, obedient, good as he.”  This is what J.B. Phillips writes about that line:

 

 “This word ‘mild’ is apparently deliberately used to describe [Jesus,] a man who did not hesitate to challenge and expose the hypocrisies of the religious people of his day . . . a man [who] was regarded by the authorities as a public danger; a man who could be moved to violent anger by shameless exploitation or by smug [complacency] . . . a man of such courage that he deliberately walked to what he knew would mean death, despite the earnest pleas of well-meaning friends.  ‘Mild’!  What a word to use!  Jesus Christ might be called ‘meek’, in the sense of being utterly devoted to what he considered right whatever the personal cost; but mild - never!”

 

So, we don’t always have to be ‘mild.’  We don’t always have to ‘fit in.’  We don’t always have to ‘do what our neighbors do’, as Emily Post suggested.  As long as it is God that is leading us, we must do whatever we have to do to follow God’s will.  We can be rebellious, as long as the end result is to be more Christlike, to co-create with God the Kingdom of justice, peace and joy in all its fullness, here on earth! 

 

This season of Lent, in the year 2020 . . . when the Coronavirus sweeping the nation is causing us all to sacrifice more than we ever could have imagined . . . I ask you, “WWJD?” 

 

 

March 14, 2020

                                      

LENT Sermon Series

 

“INTO THE WILDERNESS”

 

 

LENT

Lent is the Christian season of spiritual preparation for Easter.  It begins on Ash Wednesday, and during Lent, many Christians observe a period of fasting, moderation, self-denial, and spiritual discipline.  The purpose of the Lenten season is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ - to consider his suffering and his sacrifice . . . his life, death, burial, and resurrection.

 

Mark 1:9-15 (NIV)

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  11 And a voice came from heaven:  “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.  He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.  14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  15 “The time has come,” he said.  “The kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!”

 

Genesis 9:8-17 (NIV)

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him:   9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you-the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you-every living creature on earth.  11 I establish my covenant with you:  Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”        12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:  13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.  Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

 

Both of these scriptures have common themes for us today.  Ash Wednesday (on February 26) began the season of Lent.  And even still, our global crises of workplace shootings / weather havoc / economic uncertainties and the Coronavirus seems to cast a dark shadow over the lives of so many people.

 

Today, as we move toward the celebration of Easter, we look at the ‘Wilderness’ . . . the wilderness that Jesus experienced, and our ‘wilderness’ experiences.

 

Do you remember the story of Noah?  It’s a story I grew up with, and remember from early childhood.  In a nutshell, God decides that the only way to ‘redeem’ the world is to basically ‘begin again.’  He decides to begin again with a small family - Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives.  And, God decided to begin again with creation.  Noah is directed to collect and care for seven pairs each of ‘clean’ animals and birds, and one pair each of ‘unclean’ animals.  (I love it!  There seems to be a place for ‘the imperfect’ even in God’s new creation!)  God’s will seems to be to ‘destroy evil’ and replace it with ‘good.’  Also, in the Noah story are the forty days and nights in what we might call the wilderness of the flood.  Then a messenger of New Life comes in the form of a dove returning with a freshly-plucked olive leaf!  A beautiful sign of a new relationship with God is given - the rainbow.  It is a sign of a new covenant / promise that God will never again destroy the earth with water.

 

Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism begins with water.  And, again, we see the dove (the Holy Spirit) as the bringer of new life.  A life lived with God’s pleasure is affirmed, and blessing is bestowed upon Jesus. 

 

God decided that the only way to ‘redeem’ the world is by entering into the world in a very personal, intimate way - in the person of Jesus.  He decides to enter the world and be alongside those who suffer, who are lost, and who are the victims of the evil of the world.  God decides to enter the world in Jesus, who proclaims the possibility of a new relationship with God and the nearness of God’s kingdom.  But first, before Jesus’ public ministry begins, a time of preparation - a time in the wilderness for forty days and nights.  A time of focusing on his dependence on God (his need for God above everything else in the world).  And it is also a time of temptation (the temptation to depend upon the power and influence of the world . . . to let the ways of the ‘world’ take precedence over God’s ways).

 

Let’s concentrate on Jesus’ wilderness experience for a bit, and on the trials he battled with.  For even though Mark does not mention the specific temptations (as does Matthew 4 / Luke 4), perhaps they are especially relevant to us in our forty days and night journey through Lent.  And maybe to the greater part of the world, as it is hammered by the effects of evil and wickedness.

 

The first trial Jesus is faced with is the temptation to satisfy his hunger.  Yet there is more here than meets the eye, for it is a temptation to use his God-given power for his own personal benefit.

 

If we take as examples the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ feeding the multitudes, and providing wine from water, we can be assured that he had the ability to turn stones into bread.  The Tempter was tempting Jesus to misuse the POWER he has - the power that is a gift of God.

 

The second trial Jesus is faced with is to worship his Tempter.  What would be the reward if he did?  POWER!  It would be the authority and glory he would gain as governor, as ruler, of the whole world and all its kingdoms.  What power that would be!  And what riches and influence would be his . . . just like that!  And what a temptation it is today, for us as individuals, and corporations, and nations.  The Tempter is still here among us, tempting humanity with the promise of great worldly importance, power and wealth.  The Tempter’s influence is devastatingly felt today.

 

The third trial Jesus is faced with is to throw himself from a great height, to prove that he is the Son of God, and that God would protect him from all danger.  Imagine the scene, if Jesus had agreed to submit to the Tempter’s request!

 

Imagine the crowds gathering . . . for the Tempter loves to display his power over his subjects!  They come to witness the great ability of Jesus, the Messiah, as he performs such a wonderful feat! 

 

And imagine how great the acclaim and fortune of Jesus would be as he defies even the laws of gravity (not that they would have called it that!). Certainly news would travel fast of his POWER and his fame.

 

Again, the temptation here is to wield great POWER.  The temptation is to take all the glory and honor for a display of great personal power - the glory, honor and power that rightfully belongs only to the Father.

 

So, one way we can think about the temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness, is to consider them as temptations to usurp God’s power / to misuse (abuse) God’s power / and to take as his own the glory and honor that rightfully belongs only to God.  It hardly needs saying, but when faced with these temptations, Jesus dismisses them and he denies the Tempter the POWER to control him!

 

We don’t need to look very far in our world today to find those who are pre-occupied with the acquisition of power.  (When is the next Presidential debate?)  The wielding of power over other people, institutions, and nations . . . and the manipulation of markets, vast profits that benefit the few / the vast losses that adversely affect us all. 

 

The world is a darker place because of the lust for power - for power is only ever exercised OVER others.  POWER entraps the human spirit, and brings so much injustice, pain and conflict! 

 

The Tempter has been - and continues to be - active in the world, and he counts success upon success in persuading people to accept his corrupt offers of POWER.  It is so sad, but the response of many people to the Tempter’s offers has been, Yes!  I’ll do it!”

 

What was, and is, God’s response to this temptation to acquire and to misuse POWER that seems to influence and rule the world?  The Holy Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness where he was exposed to great vulnerability and weakness.  Remember that God chose to enter the world and human history in complete powerlessness and weakness . . . as a baby.  And Jesus’ human story ends in complete powerlessness, as he is crucified on a cross.  The powerlessness of the manger lead to the powerlessness of the wilderness and ultimately to the powerlessness of the cross.

 

The power of the world is exposed as being complete folly!  God appears among us (in what seems to be weakness to the world) to unmask the illusion, the danger, of worldly power; to disarm the diabolic power that rules the world, by revealing what the true nature of power really is.

For that which seems powerless / weakness to the world is the POWER that transforms darkness into light, the wilderness into places of great beauty, death into life in all its fullness.

 

This is the power of God, shown to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is the transforming power of love that heals wounds, that brings people together, AND that brings people together with God.

 

Here is the Easter hope that we are called to prepare for, to look forward to, in these dark times of a wilderness during Lent.  We are Easter People, people of light and hope and faith in the Resurrection of Jesus and of new life!  Let’s hold that light close to our hearts; that hope deep within our soul; that faith showing through our lives - in all of our words and actions.  And it’s all to give glory and honor to God, in whose Holy Spirit we gain all the authority and power to be - and to become - Christ-like.

 

Thank you, God, for the wilderness time of Lent!

 

Jesus fasted, no eating of food, for the 40 days of his wilderness / temptation.  We, too, ought to exercise the discipline of ‘fasting’ from something that is a part of our normal routine, during this 40 days before Easter.  Use this time to pray more / listen more for whatever God would speak into your life.

 

Having trouble thinking of something that you could fast from during Lent?  Pray this Franciscan prayer.  Something in it WILL speak to you!

 

Heavenly Father, during this season of Lent,

 

I will fast from judging others, but feast on patience

 

I will fast from apparent differences, but feast on unity of all life

 

I will fast from words that pollute, but feast on words that affirm

 

I will fast from complaining, but feast on appreciation

 

I will fast from bitterness and anger, but feast on forgiveness and mercy

 

I will fast from discouragement, but feast on hope

 

I will fast from suspicion, but feast on trust

 

I will fast from idle gossip, but feast on purposeful silence

 

I will fast from problems that overwhelm, but feast on prayer that strengthens

 

IN JESUS’ NAME, AMEN

 

 

March 7, 2020

 

JAMES - TRUTH FOR TODAY

(Sermon series on the book of James)

 

We look today at the final theme in the book of JAMES . . .

 

“A HELPFUL CHURCH IN A HURTING WORLD”

 

James 5:13-18

13 Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let them pray.  Is anyone happy?  Let them sing songs of praise.  14 Is anyone among you sick?  Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.  If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.  18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

 

It is amazing that the book of James is as relevant today as it was to the world in year 1 AD.  James addresses all the major issues the Church is facing in 2020!  In our verses today, he calls on the Church to be in touch with a hurting world.  And . . . we DO live in a world where people are hurting!

 

We must go into the world with a message of hope.  As the Church touches a hurting world, James addresses the issue of its situation, its solution, and its secret.

 

The Situation (James 5:13-15)

 

13 Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let them pray.  Is anyone happy?  Let them sing songs of praise.  14 Is anyone among you sick?  Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.  If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 

 

Life is filled with pressure and pleasure.  There are mountaintops and valleys in life.  The is sunshine and rain, in life.  There is happiness and heartache, in life.  James 5:13-15 mentions 3 types of situations in which people find themselves.  As people, we know pressure (v. 13), and we know pleasure (v. 13), and we know pain (vs. 14-15).

 

Pressure / Pain / Pleasure

 

Think about a water-saturated sponge.  If you push down with your finger, even slightly, water runs out and onto the table.  Everyone immediately know what fills the interior pockets of the sponge.  The same is true of ourselves.  We can tell what fills us on the inside by what comes out under pressure.

14 Is anyone among you sick?  Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.  If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 

 

 

. . . call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”

 

 

The Elders of A&D Biker Ministries pray for you, and they want to pray with you.  Call on them.  Pray with them.  Allow the Lord to bless you and raise you up!

 

BUT, first, I have a question for you.  Church members, Elders, Pastor . . .

 

How much of your praying is just you giving God advice?

 

Do you know what I believe?

 

I believe that the one concern the devil has is to keep us from praying.  He doesn’t fear anything from prayerless Bible studies, prayerless Elder meetings, prayerless work, prayerless marriages, or prayerless religion.  In fact, he laughs at our work and mocks our wisdom . . . but, he trembles when we pray.

 

The Solution (James 5:16)

 

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 

 

James points us to a horizontal solution and a vertical solution.  The horizontal solution is to “confess your sins to each other.”  James does NOT mean we are to go around confessing all our sins to everyone.  We are privileged to go straight to God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, with our sins!

 

However, there are times when, to be right with God, we must get right with each other.  That is, to be right vertically, we must be right horizontally.  James goes on to deal with a vertical solution when he reminds us we are to “pray for each other.”  The tense of these verbs in James 5:16 is the present imperative.  In other words, confession and prayer are not a one-and-done deal.  James was saying, in effect, Make a practice of agreeing with and praying for one another.  Don’t wait until the need arises.  Always do it.”

 

The Secret (James 5:16-18)

 

The word James uses for prayer in (v. 16) is a word that means “a humble begging, a plea, or petition.”  It is the most humble word for prayer in Greek.  

 

This kind of prayer is neither to ordering God to do this or that, nor is it claiming this or that.  It suggests the picture of a needy person with their head bowed in humility asking for help. 

 

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective

 

Humble prayer is approached with integrity.  It is the “prayer of the righteous person” (v. 16). 

 

It is asked with intensity.  It is “powerful” (v. 16). 

 

And, it is “effective” (v. 16). 

 

James’ closing remarks:

 

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this:  Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

 

James closes his letter with the recurring theme of a new beginning in Jesus Christ. He reminds us of the possibility of our falling and the responsibility of our calling.

 

The Possibility of Our Falling (v. 19)

 

James 5:19 says it is possible to “wander from the truth.”  So many people today say that doctrine doesn’t matter.  However, it is what we believe that determines how we behave.  When we wander away from doctrine (belief), our behavior will soon follow.

 

 

The Responsibility of Our Calling (v. 20)

 

James 5:19 says, ‘Someone should bring him back.’  This is the responsibility of our calling!  In our desire to win the lost, we sometimes forget we are also to win the saved.  We have the responsibility, according to James 5:19-20, to “bring them back” (that is repentance); to “save them from death” (that is resuscitation); and “cover over a multitude of sins” (that is restoration).

 

With our call succinctly stated in James 5:19-20, the letter just ends.  This is quite a contrast to the way Paul and Peter concluded their letters . . . “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). 

 

James concludes his epistle rather abruptly, because he was a practical man! 

 

James simply says,

 

20 remember this:  Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

 

Period.

 

End of his letter.

 

James tells us what we are to do, and then he said, in effect, “Now, get on with it!”

 

 

As we live and breathe, in the year 2020, may God help us to embrace and to fully live out all 13 of James’ themes for the Church . . . so that we may be righteous, and, that we might effectively help a hurting world!

 

 

February 29, 2020

 

JAMES - TRUTH FOR TODAY

(Sermon series on the book of James)

 

We look today at James’ next to his last theme . . .

 

“APOCALYPSE NOW”

 

APOCALYPSE n.  (a . paka . lips)

The complete final destruction of the world, as described in the biblical book of Revelation.

 

 

James 5:7-12

7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.  8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.  9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged.  The Judge is standing at the door!  10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear - not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.  All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.”  Otherwise you will be condemned.

 

“Be patient . . . until the Lord’s coming.” (v. 7) Instead of being patient, many of us today are presumptuous.  There are always those who try to forecast or pinpoint the Lord’s return (parousia). 

 

Every major world event has many Christians crying, THIS IS IT . . . the end of the world!”  (I believe this is one reason that Christians lose so much creditability in the eyes of the world.) 

 

James 5:7-12 deals with what we are to do until the JESUs’ RETURN.

 

Look up and Be Calm (James 5:7)

 

7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 

 

Predictions of Christ’s return are nothing new.  They started a few years after Jesus’ resurrection.  So, James admonishes his readers to “be patient.”

 

Look in and Be Clean (James 5:8-9)

 

8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.  9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged.  The Judge is standing at the door! 

When we are in a “waiting period,” it is easy to become frustrated.  Some of us, rather quickly, turn to grumbling and holding grudges. 

 

There is potential within us to become bitter and resentful.  During these times we should “stand firm” (v. 8).  The Greek word translated “stand firm” (sterizo) is in the active voice and means “to prop up,” to strengthen your being.

 

James says to us, “Don’t grumble against each other” (v. 9).  Until the Lord returns, we must stay calm and stand firm against sin.

 

Look Back and Be Challenged (James 5:10-11)

 

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 

James calls on us to look up, look in, and look back to those who have gone before us.  Their example should be a challenge.  James said to take the prophets as examples of patience (v. 10).  They too were watching for the Lord!  Remembering those who have gone before us is always a challenge.

Having used the prophets as examples of patience in suffering, James reminds us about the perseverance of Job (v. 11).

 

What are we to do until the Lord’s return?  James implores us to look up and be calm, look in and   be clean, look back and be challenged to remain faithful.

 

Finally . . .

 

Look Forward and Be Consistent (v. 12)

 

12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear - not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.  All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.”  Otherwise you will be condemned.

 

We are also to look forward and be consistent! 

 

Our lives should match our lips; our walk should match our talk.  Verse 12 says, “Do not swear.”  James wasn’t talking about cussing, here (but he did address our speech already)!  He was talking about taking oaths.  In James’s day, oaths were used so frequently that they had lost their significance.

 

Verse 12 reminds us of one of the instructions Jesus gave in Galilee, when he said:

 

Matthew 5:34-37

Do not swear at all:  Neither by Heaven for it is God’s throne; or by earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even

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