Faith, 13 March 2022

Series—Faith Works: The Book of James
James 5:13-20
Series Big Idea: Jesus’ half-brother, James, offers us timeless instructions for living a God-honoring life.
Big Idea: Faith works when we pray, praise, profess, and pursue.
Faith works! That’s been the message throughout our series on the book of James which we conclude today.
For centuries there has been a tension between faith and works. Many believe if you have enough good works, they will cancel one’s sins and earn you eternity with God in heaven. Much of the Protestant Reformation was an attack on this “works” heresy, emphasizing Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)
Praise the LORD for His amazing grace, His gift, for Jesus. If we are good enough to earn God’s approval, Jesus suffered and died needlessly!
The book of Romans declares,
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)
And yet Jesus’ half-brother, James, boldly states,
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26, NIV)
We are not saved by our works, but they are evidence of genuine faith. So many have misunderstood the “believe” in John 3:16 to mean if they mentally agree with historical statements, they can do whatever they want. James’ response:
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19, NIV)
Family, that’s one of the most sobering verses in the Bible! To say you believe Jesus died and rose again is not enough, according to James, because satan himself witnessed the events. He knows it’s history, but he has refused Jesus’ simple invitation to “follow me.” Have you?
Dallas Willard once said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” Faith works! Grace works! How? The conclusion of this short yet powerful book offers four action steps. For those of you who like alliteration, this is your day! First,
Pray when you suffer.
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. (James 5:13a, NLT)
Simple, right…but is that always your first response? When I’m sick, sometimes I go right for the Tylenol. When someone hurts me, I want to lash back—or at the very least tell others about how I’ve been wronged. When I suffer anxiety over the news, I’m prone to panic, strategize, worry, or try to control situations far beyond my control.
Last week, Pastor Mike talked about suffering. It’s a part of life. Dare I say it’s a part of God’s plan, often, to build our character. If you ever hear prosperity heresy saying God wants you happy, healthy, and wealthy at all times, turn them off! Jesus knows suffering. He promised we’d know it, too…yet we’re so shocked when it happens. Gas prices go up and we freak out while people in Ukraine are running for their lives. We bellyache when our favorite brand of toilet paper is sold out at the store or when winter weather is…cold! Many of us have no idea what true suffering is all about—though many of us do. The point is simply this: pray!
Last Sunday at a First Alliance reunion, one person shared of their incredible suffering, calling it both their “high” and “low.” How can suffering be a high? It has drawn them closer to God.
When things are going well, it’s easy to forget God. I believe that’s one of the reasons why the movement of Jesus seems to be in decline in our nation. We haven’t needed God. Yet what message have you seen and heard more than any other during the war overseas? Pray for Ukraine. I’m told 70% of Ukranians are Christians…and I wouldn’t be surprised if that number is growing! They need God! They have nothing else! Their homes are being destroyed. Their valuables are being abandoned as they flee for their lives. I doubt any are calling their Internet provider to complain about slow downloads!
Pray when you suffer. Can we do that now?
The rest of verse thirteen says,
Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. (James 5:13b)
He doesn’t say only praise when you’re happy. God is always worthy of our praise. He is good…all the time! But all of us have moments of suffering and moments of happiness. God wants us to share both—with Him and with one another. Romans again:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15, NIV)
It’s interesting how Christians seem to be good at the second part, but not the first part! The point is,
Praise when you are happy.
By the way, this is why we sing on Sundays…and elsewhere. It’s a command! Whether you’re a singer or not is beside the point. The word “sing” appears over one hundred times in the Bible. It doesn’t matter if you sing like an angel or can’t carry a tune in a paper bag…make a joyful noise! We sing for the LORD! We sing to the LORD! It's all about Him!
I know a guy in another city who purposely shows up thirty minutes late to his church to skip the music because he says he doesn’t like worship music. But God does!!!
Just to review verse 13,
Pray when you suffer.
Praise when you are happy.
Now James circles back to suffering and prayer.
Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15, NLT)
We believe in the power of prayer! Each week our elders are available at the conclusion of our gathering to pray for the sick. We’ve seen God heal! Miracles have not ceased! He doesn’t always answer when and how we desired, but as James said earlier,
You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2b, NIV)
Again, when we suffer, when we are sick, pray! God is not a genie offering on-demand responses to our petitions, but He does hear and He always answers…in His perfect timing. I have tons of questions for God. I have doubts, at times. But I know God is good. I know He can be trusted. I’ve suffered for many years with various challenges, yet I am here to declare God’s faithfulness.
Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. (James 5:15, NLT)
Don’t miss the last part. I believe the greatest miracle is not cancer cured or even broken marriages restored, but forgiveness…salvation. If all God ever did for us was send Jesus, that would be more than enough. Family, this life is so short. Followers of Jesus will be with him forever. Forever! How does that compare to 80 or even 100 years? If the sickness is related to sin—which is possible—it can be forgiven.
Pray when you suffer.
Praise when you are happy.
Profess your sins.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16a, NLT)   
It doesn’t say confess to a priest. It doesn’t even say confess to God. He knows! It says confess to and pray for each other…so that you may be healed. Scientists are discovering what the Bible has said for generations: our mind impacts our body. Bitterness can cause physical problems. Buried guilt and shame can make us sick. And let’s not forget sometimes our suffering is the result of our sin. This is not always the case, but many of our ailments and pain are the consequences of sin—ours or those of someone else. This is why God hates sin!
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16b, NLT)   
First Alliance is as church of prayer. One of our core values states,
Faithfulness. We are devoted to prayer, the Word of God, and following Jesus.
We have Zoom Prayer each weekday at 9 AM. Elders are available each Sunday morning.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16a, NLT)   
Our Life Groups are perhaps the best prayer gathering we have as people do life together, confessing sins and praying for one another.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16b, NLT)   
I could spend all day telling stories of the prayers of righteous people producing wonderful results. Hallelujah!
James uses Elijah as an example of the power of prayer.
Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. (James 5:17-18, NLT)   
That’s the power of prayer! You can read all about it and other miracles in 1 Kings chapter 18.
Pray when you suffer.
Praise when you are happy.
Profess your sins.
Lastly, James says we are to
Pursue the wanderer.
We live in a culture that seems to be increasingly independent. People don’t want to get involved in the affairs of others, and often for good reason. I must admit I’m not a huge fan of confrontation. But I’m often reminded of a wonderful book title by Lewis Smedes: Caring Enough to Confront. James says,
My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. (James 5:19-20, NLT)
This isn’t about self-righteously judging others, but rather loving…looking out for the best interest of another. It’s not always “nice.” Sometimes love can look rather harsh. It can even inflict pain! Why did I vaccinate my children? Love. Did it hurt? You bet! Did it harm? Quite the opposite.
Nice is not love. Tolerance is not love, either. How would you feel if I sent you a card that said, “I tolerate you!” Love gets involved. Love shows kindness, compassion, and empathy. Love believes in a preferred future and takes risks to protect another. Jesus said,
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15, NIV)
That’s not easy…especially if they don’t listen!
But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:16-17, NIV)
By the way, it never says gossip to others. It never says tell Facebook! The goal is always restoration and reconciliation, and that’s James’ point.
My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. (James 5:19-20, NLT)
This is not easy. It’s risky. You might be misunderstood. Your motives must be checked. James is not condoning condemnation. It is about helping a brother or sister get back on the path. Questions are helpful rather than attacks. One of my favorite tools is, “Help me understand.”
It seems as though people are wandering in record numbers. It’s trendy to “deconstruct” one’s faith, which is fine, so long as it is reconstructed and not abandoned. I recently saw a post which said,
Many people reject Jesus because of bad experiences with religious people. But, here’s the thing…Jesus had bad experiences with religious people, too. In fact, they killed him. People will let you down. Jesus won’t.
I pray that we can lovingly bring back wanderers to the faith. I am praying for several prodigals to return to their first love, Jesus. It’s a thrill to see someone repent of their sins and surrender to Christ.
Pursue the wanderer.
This is how James ends his important book. To summarize,
Pray when you suffer.
Praise when you are happy.
Profess your sins.
Pursue the wanderer.
What is your next step? Do you need to pray? Praise? Confess and profess your sins? Pursue a prodigal?
Throughout this book, Jesus’ half-brother, James, offers us timeless instructions for living a God-honoring life because…faith works!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Dogs & Deaf, 23 February 2020

Dogs and Deaf
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 7:24-37

Series Big Idea: Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: God is perfect, His timing is perfect, and His plans are perfect.

Do you trust God? We all know the spiritual, Sunday morning answer to the question, but what about Monday morning? If you’re like me, you are fully of questions for God, and most of them begin with “why?” It’s rather audacious to think we could understand anything better than the Creator of the universe. It’s okay to ask God questions. You can be real with God. I encourage you to pour out your heart to God…every day. He can handle it…and all of life’s trials.

Although we occasionally have topical sermons, most of the time we go verse-by-verse through the Bible, something known as expository preaching. We start with the text and ask three questions of it: What did it mean? What does it mean? So what?

When we go through books of the Bible—as we’ve been doing with the book of Mark—it’s tempting to skip over difficult passages or those texts which may seem less interesting or relevant. I must confess the seventh chapter of Mark is not my favorite chapter in the Bible, but as we’ve seen the past two weeks, there are some important things Mark wants us to know about Jesus. As we finish the chapter, we see two different encounters with Jesus. The first is with a Gentile woman and the other with a deaf man.

Let’s dive in…

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. Mark 7:24)

Tyre is a city in Lebanon and is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities on the planet. This is the only biblical mention of Jesus leaving Palestine.

Why would he want to hide? There are several possibilities:

  • He wanted to avoid the crowds who wanted to use Jesus for their own purposes
  • He needed to get alone with his followers/disciples and teach them
  • He was simply tired and needed some privacy and rest

Jesus was led by his mission, not the crowds. He knew what to do and did it. God is perfect.

Jesus is arguably the most famous person to ever walk the face of the earth. He was on a mission to change the world, which he surely did. Nevertheless, he had an agenda, a plan, an intentional strategy for doing so. His mission was to seek and save the lost, not necessarily gain the biggest crowd as quickly as possible. In our culture, we assume the more fans and followers the better, but building a social media platform is different than transforming humanity!

I used to think the only thing that mattered was the “what.” I’ve becoming increasingly concerned about the “how of a situation.” It’s been said that timing is everything, so the “when” is also vital in any action plan.

So another reason Jesus may have not wanted to find him is it wasn’t the right time for him to go public.

God’s timing is perfect. He’s never late, though rarely early. He knows when to act.

This was true for Jesus and his ministry. It’s also true when we pray. Can you trust God’s timing?

In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. (Mark 7:25)

Do you believe in angels? Do you believe in demons? They are both real, spiritual beings. Demon possession is real. We discount it in our hyper-scientific culture, but you don’t have to travel far around the world to see the supernatural world on full display. There is an unseen, spiritual dimension to reality. Angels and demons are mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible.

She falls at the feet of Jesus. She’s desperate. She loves her little daughter, yet this demon was wreaking havoc. She needs an exorcism.

Demons are real. Demon possession is real. But God is greater. Hallelujah!

The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. (Mark 7:26)

She’s a Canaanite. She’s not Jewish. She’s a Gentile. Last week we talked about the huge tension between Jews and Gentiles. It is at the heart of Jesus’ response.
“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Mark 7:27)

What? Does Jesus call this woman a dog?

There are a few different understandings of this metaphor. Some have suggested the children refers to Jesus’ disciples and the bread is his ministry, his teachings. It likely is a reference to the Jewish people. Jesus was a Jew and his first priority was to the Jews. The dogs refers not to women, but the Gentiles.

There are two Greek words for dogs. One is a negative word that we might call an ugly creature or a violent dog (like the two German Shepherds who bit me when I was a boy). Jews would sometimes use this scavenger dog word to describe Gentiles. The word Jesus uses here, though, refers to a household animal. We love our children. We love our pet puppies! Is there a priority? Yes, but both are loved.

Jesus is not always fair, but he loves equally.

John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus. There’s an old song which says Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. He died for every child—and every man and woman—who responds to his invitation to follow him, to make him LORD, to surrender control of their lives to their Creator and the one who proved his love by laying down his life on the cross…and rising from the dead, conquering sin and death.

But Jesus is not always fair. Just look around! We’ve all been given different gifts, childhoods, opportunities, and talents. Hundreds of people followed Jesus, but his focus was on a dozen…and really on three: Peter, James, and John. How do you think the other nine felt when they heard stories of Jesus and his best friends?

Our culture emphasizes fairness and equality, but listen…you don’t want fair. You don’t want to give you what you deserve. You and I deserve death and eternal punishment for our sins. Without Jesus we’re hopeless, lost, and separated from God. The scandal in Christianity is not God’s judgment, but God’s mercy. The scandal is an innocent, holy, perfect God was killed for selfish, arrogant, rebellious sinners like us. The most unfair thing in the universe is that God loves us…and proved it. It’s like Dave Ramsey says when asked how he’s doing: “better than I deserve.”

I don’t always understand God and how He works, what He’s doing. I have many questions for Him, but I know I’m loved, I know Daddy knows best, and the rest is faith, it’s trusting that the God of the universe understands reality better than I do.

God’s plan was to begin with the Jews, but not stop there. In the first book of the Bible, it is revealed that,

Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. (Genesis 18:18)

Not Jew only, but Jew first. Is that fair? It doesn’t matter. It’s God’s plan…and you’re in it!

By the way, Jesus said,

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:31)

Could this apply to the order of the Jews and Gentiles?! Today, Gentiles are not dogs, but rather children alongside the Jews.

This woman doesn’t go away and give up. She presses in.

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” (Mark 7:28)

She knows God’s love is not exclusively for the Jews, even if it begins with them. Children and dogs both get food…at the same time. She just wants a crumb, a small miracle, a simple expression of grace.

Then he told her,
“For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” (Mark 7:29)

He performs a miracle. It’s already done!

Jesus is impressed with her faith…and tenacity. What about you? Do you pray once and give up? It’s okay to be real with God. Jesus never scolds her for persevering. He praises her for it. Often our prayers are not answered on-demand. God’s timing is usually different than ours. He loves to hear you pray. I believe your voice is the most beautiful sound in the universe to God. Really.

I love my kids. I love it when they text. Calling is even better. FaceTime is better still. The best is when we’re together, in person. I love my kids. I love interacting with my kids. God does, too. He wants us to engage, to ask, to persevere, to pour out our heart.

It may seem like God is playing hard-to-get, hiding, or just ignoring you, but I assure you He’s at work. He hears you. He’s responding, but His timing is not always ours. While we get impatient and want everything now, He’s got all the time in the world. Literally. He’s at work in us as well as through us, refining our character, teaching us, and writing a story on our hearts that usually takes many decades to tell.

Ask…and keep asking. It will be worth it. It was for this woman. The demon left her daughter. Her prayer was answered.

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (Mark 7:30)

Have you given up on God? Have you quit praying that prayer? Have you put your faith on auto-pilot? Are you just going through the motions, defeated by disappointment with God? I want to challenge you to persevere, to keep praying.

Years ago, someone gave me a beautiful image of a giant parachute hanging from the ceiling like a big bowl. He said when he prays, he imagines writing his prayers on paper and placing them in the parachute. Each prayer causes the parachute to get heavier and heavier until it eventually bursts. It might be that your next prayer is the one—after hundreds or thousands or millions—which will lead to that breakthrough. Don’t give up!

Mark continues with a different story in a different place with different people.

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.
There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. (Mark 7:31-32)

Jesus was gaining a reputation as a healer. Who doesn’t want free health care?! Here’s a deaf man who could hardly talk, and his friends beg Jesus to heal him.

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him,
“Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). (Mark 7:33-34)

Is this how you’re supposed to heal, Jesus? Does he really want your spit in his mouth?

We like formulas. Pray these magic words and all of your dreams will come true! Jesus heals different people differently. In the case of the woman’s demon-possessed daughter, he didn’t even meet the girl, he just declared her healed. With this man, he takes him away from the crowd and sticks his fingers in his ears and tongue to open them with one word.

Jesus’ plans are always perfect, even when they seem odd.

At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (Mark 7:35)

No speech class is required. What a beautiful miracle. Then Jesus does something that would drive any public relations director crazy.

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:36-37)

Was Jesus using reverse psychology, telling the people to be quiet in hopes that they would rebel and spread the word of his amazing power? I used to think that, but I believe Jesus was sincere. As we saw earlier, he had a mission, a timetable, a plan. He needed to disciple his…disciples. There were sermons he needed to preach, people he needed to encounter. He knew the sooner he became famous, the sooner the religious leaders would want him killed.

The prophet Isaiah said,

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. (Isaiah 35:5-6a)

The Messiah is here!

God is perfect. (what)
God’s timing is perfect. (when)
God’s plans are perfect. (how)

Yet we have the audacity to ask why. We question the Creator of the universe. And He’s actually ok with that, so long as we don’t give up…so long as we engage with Him.

Matthew records Jesus saying,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

This doesn’t mean we always get what we want, and it certainly doesn’t mean we get it when we want it, but we are encouraged in more than one place to ask, to seek, to knock, to engage with God. He wants us to pray. Yes, He knows what we want before we ask, but He wants us to ask. Every good Dad loves to give gifts to his kids, but they don’t want to be a vending machine. They want a relationship.

So What?

Perhaps the message in both of these stories is to ask and keep asking. You can analyze the woman’s story and compare children and dogs. You can discuss the irony of a loud crowd trying to help a man who couldn’t talk followed by the man talking and Jesus telling the crowd not to talk.

God sees you. He knows your name. He knew you before the creation of the universe! He saw you in your mother’s womb. He knows the number of hairs on your head (or how many used to be on your head!). He sees every tear you cry and every smile on your face.

God hears you. He hears every prayer, every word. He listens, too. He cares.

Do you trust God? Do you trust His plans? Do you trust His timing?

I know it can be hard. I’ve been praying for years for things, for people, for healing, for reconciliation. I don’t understand why it’s taking so long, but I’m seeking to trust God. Instead of why, I’ve been asking, “What are you up to, LORD?”

God is perfect, His timing is perfect, and His plans are perfect. God can be trusted.

Prayer: I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Broken Relationships, 4 November 2018

    Why Can’t We Just Get Along? (Broken Relationships)
    D6 Series—When Life Gets Hard
    Matthew 18:15-20

    Series Overview:
    In this world we will have trouble, but we are never alone.

    Big Idea: There is always hope for reconciliation when we obey God’s Word.

    Life is all about relationships. Nothing can bring more joy than a deep friendship, an encouraging conversation, a loving embrace, a kind word, or a thoughtful note. Relationships are the heart of life itself. We were created for a relationship with our Creator God. We were created for relationships with one another. God’s design was for a man and woman to have an intimate relationship…knowing and being known by one another. Children are often the result of such a relationship, creating a multi-generational family, the core of any society. Extended family relationships can bring tremendous fulfillment in life, extending love, security, wisdom, and trust.

    The church was also God’s design, a family rooted not in biological blood but rather the blood of Jesus Christ, reconciling us to our Heavenly Father and making us spiritual siblings with one another. Relationships are the most wonderful thing in life…except when they’re not!

    Today we’re beginning a series entitled
    When Life Gets Hard. While it’s true that God is good—all the time—life is not always easy. We were never promised happiness, comfort, and wealth…yet we seem so surprised when life gets hard. Jesus said,

    In this world you will have trouble… (John 16:33b)

    How many of you have experienced trouble in this world? All of us! It’s guaranteed. We’re all in the midst of trouble, coming out of a trial, or about to experience suffering. Why? I don’t always understand. A few weeks ago we noted how suffering produces perseverance which produces character which leads to hope, but that’s little consolation in the midst of the storm when we’re shouting, “Help!”

    One thing I know for certain: we are never alone in our trials. John 16:33 continues…

    In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b)

    Because relationships are so central to our existence, a broken relationship can often be far more excruciating than a broken bank account or even a broken bone. What do we do when they can’t just get along?

    I’m so glad you asked!

    They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We’re going to get to broken relationships, but first let’s look at what God says about relationships. How are we to live as brothers and sisters? The Bible is loaded with timeless wisdom which—if followed—would transform our lives, avoid misunderstandings, quench gossip, increase harmony, and accelerate peace.

    Let’s begin with Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:

    “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15)

    Family, if we would follow this one, simple command, our church would be so much different. I admit, this is radical. Our culture says if someone treats you poorly, tell their boss, call the cops, slander them on Facebook, or tell your closest fifty friends about the indiscretion.

    If I had a nickel for every time someone has brought a complaint to me about a person before they went to the accused, I’d be a rich man.

    Is Jesus clear? If I offend you, first go to…me.

    If someone in your small group does something in appropriate, go to…them.
    If a staff member does something you don’t like, go to…them.
    If a deacon or elder or anyone else is engage in sin, go to…them.

    To do otherwise is…sin! It’s gossip.

    Many of you are familiar with Dave Ramsey. He’s a best-selling author and media personality. He may be best known for his financial counsel, but he also runs an organization in Tennessee which is consistently rated one of the top places to work in Nashville. One feature of his business is a no-gossip policy. Listen to this excerpt from his website:

    Gossip is defined as discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem. If you’re having computer problems, and IT is slow about helping you, you don’t complain about it to the sales rep in the break room. You talk to your leader because he or she can and will do something about it.
    If a team member is discovered gossiping, they receive one warning. After that they’re fired, and, yes, Dave has fired people for gossiping and will do it again to keep it out of his company.
    I can’t fire volunteers at First Alliance Church for gossiping, but I wish I could! It’s sin. And it happens. Here. It’s unacceptable! It’s poison. It’s toxic. It destroys unity. It is a form of hate. Am I clear?

    When I arrived at three years ago, I was told since seemingly everyone in our church is related, there’s not much gossip here. That may be true, but any gossip is too much. Proverbs says,

    Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. (Proverbs 26:20-22)

    I know it’s hard. I know it’s more fun to talk behind their back. I know speaking ill of someone makes us feel superior. I know everyone in the world does it. One recent study revealed about 80% of our conversations are about other people and their habits! But gossip is unacceptable. If you hear even a whisper of negativity toward someone not in the conversation, please simply stop and ask these six words:

    Why are you telling me this?

    Have you ever played the telephone game? You tell a message to someone who tells someone else who tells someone else and after a while the original message is nowhere to be found. This is why I like prayer requests and messages in writing, by the way. You might think your intent is good in critiquing the behavior of a brother or sister, but if it goes around them, it won’t take long for lies to be spread. Let me say it one more time:

    “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15)

    In a small number of instances, speaking the truth in love to a brother or sister does not produce the desired results. Jesus continues,

    But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
    (Matthew 18:16)

    One-on-one is not always successful, especially when there is a power imbalance. God makes provision for mediators. The Alliance even has an extensive course called Peacemaking. Kendra Sankovich recently completed both sections and is a trained facilitator for such conversations. Your spouse, small group leader, or mutual friend might be useful. In some instances, a professional counselor can help. This usually works, but if not, then and only then step three and four can be executed.

    If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
    (Matthew 18:17)

    In this case, “the church” may be the elders. These are rare and serious situations. The Bible gives instruction for church discipline and it is sometimes needed, not to kick someone out, but rather to create pathways for repentance and reconciliation.

    Here’s the bottom line: if you have an issue with someone, go to them first. Gossip is a deadly cancer that has destroyed countless relationships.

    Jesus adds a few words to this message about loving one another.

    “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)

    That’s cool! When we are united with God and one another, we’re all working together, seeking the same thing, on the same mission, and God’s will is accomplished.

    “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

    The context is not where two or three gather to fight or gossip, but to pursue unity, truth, and understanding. Christ acts with the Church in matters of discipline. That’s a vision of how we are to do life together as family with one another, our heavenly Father, and our big brother Jesus.

    Here are some related scriptures on relating with one another:

    Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:14-15)

    We talked about grace—unmerited favor—last month. We are to be people of grace. We are to be recipients of God’s grace and conduits of it to others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Believe the best in others. Don’t avoid conflict, but before attacking, begin with a clarifying question or one of my favorite phrases, “Help me understand.”

    We have a real enemy, family, and he wants us divided, critical, negative, gossiping, backstabbing, arguing, and complaining. When we hit pause and lovingly get to the heart of the matter, he loses…and I love it when he loses!!! Peter said,

    Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

    Humble people make the best friends, the best leaders, the best neighbors. In fact, we’re told,

    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, (Philippians 2:3)

    A few verses later Paul writes,

    Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”
    Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky (Philippians 2:14-15)

    Here’s a good summary of life together:

    Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:16-18)

    Sometimes we can go through all of the steps in Matthew 18 and still not find resolution. Unfortunately we cannot control the behaviors of others. It’s hard enough controlling our own!

    I know many of you are living with the pain and anguish of broken relationships. I am, too. Out of respect for those involved, I’m not at liberty to provide you with details, but there are two family members I love deeply who have become estranged from other members of my family and, somewhat, to me. These are good, Christian people who love God, but have unresolved conflict. I don’t understand. I have engaged in “help me understand” conversations, but brokenness remains.

    The Bible does not simply say to live at peace with everyone, but rather if it is possible, as far as it depends on you. Sometimes we need to simply step back and fall to our knees. Prayer works. It usually takes time. I’m praying for healing in my family. I’m praying for healing in many of your families, too.


    I want to remind of some other words of Jesus.

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

    We aren’t identified as Christians by our theology.
    We aren’t identified as Christians by our politics.
    We aren’t identified as Christians by our denomination or doctrine.
    We aren’t identified as Christians by our diet or appearance or media habits.
    We are identified as disciples of Jesus if we love one another.

    Family, we
    will hurt and offend one another, whether intentionally or accidentally. The Bible is filled with conflict. For example, Paul and Barnabus had serious issues with one another (Acts 15:37-38) but they mended their relationship (2 Timothy 4:11). We must be willing to quickly forgive, seeking restoration and reconciliation.

    A popular passage of the Bible says,

    “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

    Keep short accounts. Forgive quick. No regrets. Tomorrow may be too late.

    About 2000 years ago Jesus gathered his best friends together for the Passover celebration. It would become so much more as he presented himself as the sacrifice, the lamb who would be slaughtered to take away the sins of the world. You can call it the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist or Communion. It’s a time to remember Jesus, his love, his death on the cross for our sins, and his resurrection. He died to heal the brokenness in our relationship with God caused by our sin. It’s also to be done together; communion is to be done in community. Paul said,

    For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

    So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)

    Perhaps Paul was thinking of these words from Jesus:

    “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22)

    “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)


    Quoting from a 1982 document from the World Council of Churches,

    The Eucharist celebration demands reconciliation and sharing among all those regarded as brothers and sisters in the one family of God and is a constant challenge in the search for appropriate relationships in social, economic and political life. All kinds of injustice, racism, separation and lack of freedom are radically challenged when we share in the body and blood of Christ…

    Communion is about broken relationships restored.
    Communion is about our sins washed white as snow.
    Communion is about one imperfect family unified in grace, forgiveness, and love.

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    Jesus is our Healer, 18 February 2018

    Jesus is our Healer
    The Gospel Truth
    James 5:13-15

    Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

    Big Idea: Jesus still heals, even if it’s not always on our timetable.

    We live in a broken world. There are wars. There are famines. There are hurricanes and natural disasters. There are bankruptcies and divorce and homelessness and hatred and hopelessness. There is disease.

    We’ve come a long way from the Garden of Eden where God repeatedly saw that our world was good. Since sin entered our world, each of us has been in need of healing of one kind or another. As we live between the first and second coming of Christ, we neither experience perfection nor despair in this life, knowing that Jesus is our healer.

    We’re in week three of a four-week series called The Gospel Truth. We said “gospel” means “good news” and in a word, the gospel is Jesus. In three, the gospel is Jesus is LORD. We are invited into the story, but first and foremost the gospel is all about Jesus. The Bible is all about Jesus. Our church is all about Jesus.

    In week one, we examined Jesus as our Savior. He came to earth, died on the cross to reconcile us to God and forgive our sins, and he continues to seek and save the lost.

    In week two, we looked as Jesus as our Sanctifier, setting us apart from sin and to God. Even the most mature Christian is still a work in progress, ideally becoming more like Jesus each day.

    Today we look at perhaps the most controversial of the Fourfold Gospel components of A.B. Simpson, our church’s founder. Jesus is our Healer.

    We could easily do a series on healing, but for now we’ll try to cover some of the most common questions related to healing.

    What is healing?

    Often the first thing people think of when it comes to healing is physical. When we are physically sick, we often take medicine or go to the
    doctor. God heals through medicine. God heals through doctors. In fact, the writer of the books of Luke and Acts in the Bible was a doctor. Some religions frown upon such things, often to their own detriment. I, for one, am grateful for medicine and doctors, but when someone is physically sick, ideally the first doctor to consult is Jesus.

    Our bodies are not the only thing in need of healing. Often our finances are a mess. God cares about our material needs—don’t forget he fed thousands of people on more than one occasion—and I can tell you many stories of God providing for me and my family in miraculous ways. Of course, running up your credit buying a new luxury car and the biggest TV you can fit inside it might not create the optimal conditions for God to bless you with unexpected wealth! But with the help of wise counsel such as Dave Ramsey, I’ve seen God do great healing in the area of finances.

    Sometimes we find our relationships in need of healing, especially marriages. God is available to reverse the path to divorce, and I’ve seen it many times. It rarely occurs instantly, but God uses many resources—including Christian counselors—to heal relationships.

    Perhaps the most controversial of healings involves mental and emotional brokenness. Earlier this month a prominent Christian leader posted this on Twitter:

    We will find mental health when we stop staring in the mirror, and fix our eyes on the strength and beauty of God.

    Good grief! That sounds so spiritual, but it amazes me how many people will see a doctor for the flu or cancer, yet ignore their mental health.

    Why am I sick?

    Now let me stop and say we often have a role in our brokenness…and healing. Driving drunk, running into a tree, blaming God for your broken neck, and demanding an instant healing might not be the most responsible thing to do! In the same way, there are mental and emotional and financial and relational illnesses we cause, exacerbate, or extend.

    But sometimes our condition is not our fault. It’s not necessarily God’s, either. It may be the result of living in a sinful word. For example, if someone else’s drunk driving caused your neck to break, the pain would be just as real, but the blame far different.

    In Jesus’ day, it was assumed the sick were that way due to their own sin. One time a man blind from birth was brought to Jesus with this question:

    “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,”
    said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:2b-3)

    Sickness often is the result of sin—Adam’s, ours, or that of others. Sometimes God allows satan to make us sick, as is the case of Job. In trials, we learn and grow in ways we could never otherwise experience. When we are sick, we must seek God’s will even while we beg God for healing.

    But sickness is not necessarily the result of your sin. Your depression might have something to do with watching Fox News all day, comparing your body to Photoshopped magazine models, or refusing help or friendship from loving people concerned about you. But it also may stem from brain chemistry, childhood trauma, or abuse. Ignoring pain rarely heals and often makes things worse, whether it’s a toothache or a heart ache. We are to…

    Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)

    Each of those areas can be broken…and healed. Sometimes it’s instant. Usually it involves time…and the help of others.

    Because Jesus cared for the whole person, not just the spiritual, we want to do the same.

    We care about your physical health. We partner with Cherry Street to serve meals, have outings to promote fitness, and are even shopping for Purell for the lobby!

    We care about your relational health. Married People and Parents’ Night Out are just two of the tools we have to strengthen families.

    We care about your financial health. This is an extremely generous church and we have blessed countless people with assistance in the midst of true crisis. We have and I hope will again offer Dave Ramsey’s
    Financial Peace University.

    We care about your mental and emotional health, too. In April, we are launching
    Celebrate Recovery, a biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome our hurts, hang-ups, and habits. It is based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory and has brought healing to countless people worldwide.

    Did Jesus Heal?

    This question sounds basic, but the answer is yes. The Bible is filled with accounts of miracles, including healing for the blind, lame, sick, and even dead! We could spend all morning reading accounts of Jesus’ miracles, many witnessed by crowds of people.

    Why did Jesus heal?

    Jesus healed for several reasons. He did it to show his compassion and love. Miracles authenticated the message of Jesus…and the Messenger. Healing proved his authority to forgive sin. Also, the physical healings proved He is the LORD of our whole lives, not just the spiritual. God created you heart, soul, mind, and body…and He cares about all dimensions of your life.

    Does Jesus heal today?

    Absolutely. But first, a question: do you want to be healed?

    One of the most fascinating stories in the Bible involves Jesus encounter with a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

    When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

    ‘Ya gotta wanna, and some people don’t want to be healed. They can’t imagine life without their addiction, their ailment, their disease. It seems obvious to everyone around them but they are unwilling to take the necessary steps to get well, be it prayer, asking for help, calling a Christian counselor, visiting a doctor, or attending a seminar.

    We live in this space between Jesus’ first visit to our planet and his promised return. The kingdom of God is coming, but it’s also here right now. There are brilliant moments when heaven touches earth. Jesus taught us to pray, “On earth as it is in heaven.” Healings here are a kind of down payment on what is to come, the now and the not yet. We have something but not everything that will someday be ours. This applies to health, too.

    Some have suggested miracles ceased when Jesus ascended into heaven, perhaps based on their own disappointments with God and his failure to respond to their prayers as they desire. Jesus himself told his friends,

    Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

    Here's an excerpt from the Alliance Statement of Faith:

    Provision is made in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ for the healing of the mortal body.(25) Prayer for the sick and anointing with oil are taught in the Scriptures and are privileges for the Church in this present age.(26)

    [25] Matthew 8:16–17[26] James 5:13–16

    The power to heal comes from Jesus. We do not believe in faith healing. We are called to exercise faith in Christ, but any healing power is from God. When God chooses to heal, payments to televangelists are not required! You don’t have to be in a special place or do special things except ask. Jesus healed in a variety of ways, sometimes even healing people who were not in his presence.

    The purpose of divine healing is to glorify Jesus. God loves us, but His glory is the top priority, not our happiness. We ask in faith…and wait. Sometimes we wait for moments, others for years.

    Pastor and author Mark Batterson recently announced miraculous healing in his body after forty years of prayer. Forty years! That’s perseverance. That’s patience! He had severe asthma, unable to go a day without his inhaler for four decades until he realized a day had passed…and then several days…and then weeks and months. He even ran a marathon!

    God’s timing is perfect and can be trusted, even when it’s so different from our timing. Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal their brother, Lazarus. Jesus waited…until Lazarus had died, yet Jesus was glorified by raising Lazarus from the dead.

    Jesus is glorified in Mark Batterson’s healing from asthma.
    Jesus is glorified when we are healed.

    It’s all about Jesus!

    What if I’m not healed?

    It’s great to hear stories about healing, but what about those unanswered prayers?

    I believe many times healing doesn’t occur is because we simply don’t ask. How many times have you had a headache and grabbed the medicine bottle before praying? I do it all the time! Again, God can and does use medicine and doctors, but He is also able to do the miraculous.

    But what happens when you do pray and nothing seems to happen? Don’t give up. On New Year’s Eve, we heard Carol tell of God bringing relief to her migraines after 25 years, and even then they are not fully cured. Why would God allow her to suffer? Why does she still suffer? Why relief after 25 years? Only God knows. It’s often hard to understand how God can love us, be sovereign and in control, and yet allow us to suffer.

    Paul, the man who wrote much of the New Testament, never received the healing he sought. He wrote of his thorn in the flesh

    Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,
    “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

    Our family spent nine years in five states getting help for our daughter. I can’t tell you how many prayers I prayed, how many times I asked, “Why?” She is doing well today but is far from “cured.” Looking back, we can see how God used her dreadful health to do great things, but it was a long, awful process. That’s why God provides us with family, spiritual siblings to pray, encourage, support, and heal. I know this: God can be trusted…and He can handle all of your questions and doubts, too. Honest to God.

    But maybe after decades of prayers, your healing will finally come today.

    So What?

    Are you in need of healing today? Jesus’ half brother wrote these words:

    Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 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. 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. (James 5:13-15)

    Each Sunday our elders make themselves available to pray over you and anoint you with oil. We have invited other church members to join them in prayer to be a blessing to you. While elders possess spiritual authority, all followers of Jesus have access to the healing power and authority of Jesus Christ. We simply must ask.

    We have seen God heal through these prayers. We celebrate when he says, “Yes” to our requests for healing and would love to pray for you.

    We have also seen God say, “No” or “wait.” We don’t know why, but his timing is perfect. It is during that waiting that we often experience the most growth.

    Remember, all healing is temporary. If you get over a cold, there’s no guarantee you will never have another cold. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but he ultimately died again. As long as we live in this world, we will have troubles of various kinds—physical, emotional, relational, financial, spiritual…but even in the most dire of situations there is hope with Jesus who said

    In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

    In this life, all healing is temporary. Not matter how many times we may experience transformation, we will all someday die…and followers of Jesus are promised eternity with him and new, resurrected bodies. Hallelujah! One day

    ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’
    or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

    Until then, let’s pray for one another, mourn with those who mourn, grieve with those who grieve, find ways to serve one another, and invite God’s power to come and heal.

    Credits: Some ideas from A.B. Simpson and John Soper.

    For the Alliance statement regarding Jesus our Healer:

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Healing: Woman & Girl, 3 September 2017

    Healing: Woman & Girl
    Series— Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
    Mark 5:21-43
    Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!
    Big Idea: Jesus healed—and still heals—those who believe.
    Faith. Do you have it? Sure you do. We all have faith…in something…or someone! The book of Hebrews states
    Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
    As we continue to look at the life of Jesus through Mark’s biography, we come to two stories of faith…and physical healing.
    They are very similar. They both involve females. Both of their stories began twelve years prior.
    They are very different. One female is young, the other old. One is the daughter of an important synagogue officer, the other an anonymous woman. The officer was about to lose a daughter who brought him twelve years of happiness while the woman lost an affliction that brought her twelve years of grief.
    These are documented, historical incidents but God never changes…and He continues to heal today.
    Jesus is the Son of God, the way, the truth, and the life.
    Two weeks ago, we saw his power over the natural world, calming a huge storm.
    Last week we saw his power over the supernatural, exorcising demons.
    Today we will see his power over sickness and death.
    When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet.  He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”  So Jesus went with him. (Mark 5:21-24a)
    We’re back in Jewish territory, probably Capernaum. The crowds are back. They religious leaders are back. Instead of being a critic, Jairus is a believer. He’s obviously desperate, willing to lose his religious friends who despise Jesus in his quest to save his twelve-year-old daughter’s life. He has faith that if Jesus only touches his dying girl, she will be healed and live.
    Note all healing in this life is temporary. Lazarus was raised from the dead but eventually died again. If Jairus’ daughter is healed from her deadly condition, she will eventually die. We are constantly praying for the sick in our church family and beyond, but even the most miraculous healing of diseases or cancers merely prolongs life in these mortal bodies. Of course, each day we are both closer to the death of these temples and to the new bodies that will resemble Jesus’ resurrected form.
    So crowds surround Jesus, a religious leader begs Jesus to come to his home and touch his daughter, and Jesus goes.
    A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. (Mark 5:24b-26)
    This woman had been suffering with a bleeding condition for twelve years. That means for twelve years she was probably considered unclean. She couldn’t touch people. She couldn’t be around people, yet here she is in a crowd, desperate. She wasn’t passive about healing. She had spent all of her money and likely most of her time seeing doctors…and only got worse. How frustrating. Some of you can relate. Health care is not a new problem!
    When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. (Mark 5:27-29)
    What faith! She merely wanted to touch Jesus’ clothes. She didn’t need him to touch her. She didn’t need Jesus to pray for her. She didn’t even feel the need to touch Jesus—just his clothes. She was instantly healed. Praise God! But then look what happens next.
    At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30)
    Jesus knew power had gone out, but even he notices it was not his flesh but rather his clothes that were touched. Then the disciples say what I would’ve said…and if you’re honest, you probably would’ve thought it, too.
    Jesus once said,
    Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)
    Paul tells us in Philippians (2:5-11) that Jesus “made himself nothing” when he came to earth, “taking the very nature of a servant.” The power he had was the Holy Spirit, the same power available to all followers of Jesus.
    “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” (Mark 5:31)
    Jesus ignores his disciples!
    But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:32-34)
    She’s caught touching Jesus’ clothes! How embarrassing! She’s trembling with fear and confesses, but instead of a rebuke, she receives a blessing…and healing. What a wonderful gift. What a great story she has for her friends of the healing power of Jesus. He heals her body and soul, granting her peace—
    shalom, completeness—and calling her “daughter” while commending her faith.
    But what about that girl?
    While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” (Mark 5:35)
    She’s dead? Jesus, if you weren’t listening to that lady’s story maybe you would’ve been able to save my daughter. You’re too late now. So much for your perfect timing.
    Jesus missed the death of Lazarus.
    Jesus missed the death of Jairus’ daughter.
    Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” (Mark 5:36)
    Easy for you to say, Jesus. You don’t even know this girl. And what do you mean, “Just believe?” What good is faith? We were hoping you could just touch her but now she’s dead!
    Before moving on, I want to focus on those words: don’t be afraid; just believe. That’s faith. Max Lucado wrote,
    “Faith is trusting what the eye can’t see. Eyes see the prowling lion. Faith sees Daniel’s angel. Eyes see storms. Faith sees Noah’s rainbow. Eyes see giants. Faith sees Canaan. Your eyes see your faults. Your faith sees your Savior.”
    Don’t be afraid; just believe.
    He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. (Mark 5:37-40a)
    Here we see Jesus’ three best friends—Peter, James and John—receive a special invitation. The crowds aren’t allowed to follow. Perhaps even the other nine disciples were snubbed. They arrive on the scene of this twelve year-old girl’s tragic death. It’s a hot mess of commotion and wailing. It’s interesting to note in the culture professional mourners were often hired to wail at funerals. The Jewish Mishna, completed around 220 AD, quotes Rabbi Judah as saying even the poorest in Israel should hire two or more flutes and one weeping woman for a burial.
    Then Jesus makes the laughable suggestion that she’s merely asleep…and they laugh…at Jesus. They go from wailing to laughing. Why not? They’re probably there just to “perform” with no real attachment to the girl.
    Then Jesus gets to work!
    After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). (Mark 5:40b-41)
    Jesus kicks everyone out—except for his three friends and the parents. Six adults encounter the girl, Jesus touches her and commands her to get up. It’s a private moment for those with considerable faith, not a public spectacle to rile up the fans and critics.
    Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:42-43)
    They were completely astonished! Amazing!
    We have noted before the seemingly random details Mark includes, such as Jesus telling them to grab a granola bar for the girl (or whatever they ate then!). It’s an incredible scene, yet Jesus wants them to keep quiet about it (like that’s going to happen!).
    When I was in college, I spent a summer in Bolivia with Campus Crusade for Christ—now known as Cru—showing the Jesus film. It is based upon the Good News Translation of the book of Luke, but it is very similar to Mark’s account. My favorite moment in the film—besides the resurrection—is the healing of Jarius’ daughter. I’d like to take a moment and share it with you.
    In the original language Jesus said, “Lamb, get up!” What a tender wake-up call.
    So What?
    Jesus spoke to the sea and it calmed.
    Jesus spoke to the demons and sent them into the pigs.
    Jesus spoke to the girl and she was raised…after healing a woman.
    Someday Jesus will say, “Wake up” to the dead.
    Does Jesus still heal today? Yes! How do I know? I have heard countless stories throughout my life…and I’d like you to hear one now!
    My Story: Kendra Sankovich
    The fifth chapter of Mark is quite remarkable.
    Jesus casts out demons.
    Jesus heals the woman.
    Jesus raises the dead girl.
    And he’s not done yet!
    Perhaps you would like healing…for yourself or even for someone else. If Jesus were here, you’d reach out and try to touch his clothes in hopes of being healed. His power and presence are here through the Holy Spirit. Do you believe he can heal? Do you have faith? The woman had faith. Jairus had faith. Jesus still heals.
    Credits: some ideas from Stephen Leston, Mark Strauss, Ian Fair, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, Scott Pinzon, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Paralytic: Forgiveness & Healing, 4 June 2017

    Paralytic: Forgiveness & Healing
    Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
    Mark 2:1-12

    Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

    Big Idea: Jesus can heal both the physical and spiritual…and we can participate!

    A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. (Mark 2:1)

    Jesus’ headquarters moved from Nazareth to Capernaum. If you recall, Jesus healed a leper, told him to keep quiet, and instead the healed man told everyone about Jesus. The crowds loved to see physical healing but cared less about the spiritual messages Jesus preached.

    Jesus left Capernaum…and later returned to Simon Peter’s house. Most homes had 1-4 rooms so it would’ve gotten crowded quickly.

    But wait. Some scholars believe this was probably Jesus’ own house. Have you ever heard that before? That was news to me, and it shifts the story a bit.

    They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. (Mark 2:2)

    Preaching the Word of God was Jesus’ primary ministry. It is powerful. Whether it was his own house or not, he was obviously trapped. I’ve never been the subject of TV news, fortunately, but we’ve all seen private homes overrun with paparazzi when overly-zealous reporters try to get an exclusive interview. It’s chaos. In this case, it’s not media but people. Jesus is preaching to a crowd that gathered without any press release, billboards, or direct mail invitations. Did they want to hear…or just get healed?

    Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man,
    “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:3-5)

    Five guys show up, can’t get to Jesus, and take things into their own hands!

    It was a thatched roof made of straw, but getting the man on the roof must have been challenging, though many first-century homes had an outside staircase leading to a flat roof made of sod and branches.

    How would you feel if someone put a whole in your roof? Jesus says, “All right, I forgive you!” Of course, this was a deeper forgiveness than just necessitating a home improvement project! But if it is Jesus’ house, it makes his forgiveness a bit more interesting, don’t you think?

    Whose faith? The faith of the men. Their faith led to the man’s sins being forgiven? It’s not their faith that saved him but their faith led to the man meeting Jesus.
    Our city is filled with sick people—physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. We need stretcher bearers, people who will bring people in to hear the gospel.

    Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:6-7)

    Only priests could declare forgiveness, speaking in the name of God. Of course, if that’s what his friends were seeking, they would’ve taken him to the temple in Jerusalem, not to a guy preaching in a home.

    Mark tells us what they were thinking. Only God can forgive sins. They’re right about that, but Jesus is not blaspheming. He’s God. He came to earth to provide salvation. Isaiah the prophet had said the Messiah would forgive sins, restore the broken hearted, and bring healing to the lame (chapters 29; 35; 61).

    The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
    because the LORD has anointed me 
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners, (Isaiah 61:1)

    Today’s story is a micro version of the entire gospel of Mark: Jesus teaches, heals, is condemned for blasphemy, and vindicated.

    Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them,
    “Why are you thinking these things? (Mark 2:8)

    He knew what they were thinking. They were speechless!

    Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? (Mark 2:9)

    Only God can do either one! Jesus will do both.

    But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (Mark 2:10)

    This is the first time in Mark where Jesus refers to himself as “the Son of Man.” This is the key sentence in today’s text. Daniel 7 said “one like a son of man” would be the representative of God’s true people. He would be opposed by evil, vindicated and rescued by God, proved right, and given authority to dispense God’s judgment.

    “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

    Jesus has authority, even the authority to forgive sins.

    Mark 2:10 also points to Jesus’ answer to Caiaphas in chapter fourteen:

    Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

    “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:61-62)

    Jesus declares himself to be the Son of Man. He also forgives, the most powerful thing in the world.

    So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” (Mark 2:11)

    The paralyzed man obeys. Incredible!

    He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:12)

    I love how this story ends with people praising God.

    So What?

    We are called to be stretcher-bearers for others. The man had great friends!

    The greatest healing is spiritual, not physical. Even healed bodies will eventually decay, but the soul is eternal. Jesus addressed the paralyzed man’s spiritual brokenness before addressing his body.

    God is not done healing souls. He offers forgiveness for all of your sins. All of them!
    God is not done healing bodies. His timing is perfect, even when it is slower than ours.

    Jesus can heal both the physical and spiritual…and we can participate!

    We can receive forgiveness and healing.
    We can proclaim forgiveness and healing.
    We can bring people to Jesus for forgiveness and healing.

    Credits: some ideas from NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Ministry: Private & Public, 28 May 2017

    Ministry: Private & Public
    Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
    Mark 1:35-45

    Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

    Big Idea: Jesus used his private time to prepare for his public ministry.

    Today we’re continuing our series on The Real Jesus based upon Mark’s biography of the Messiah. His gospel—or good news—is short and sweet. In the final verses of chapter one, we see aspects of Jesus’ private and public life and ministry.

    Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

    Note this is the morning after a busy Sabbath! The day before he was healing, preaching, and exorcising demons.

    Again, I love Mark’s details in the midst of his headlines. It wasn’t just morning, it wasn’t just early morning, it wasn’t just very early morning, it was very early in the morning while it was still dark! So Jesus seeks solitude before everyone awakes to pray. The Greek word for “solitary” (eremos) is used to speak of the wilderness, the place where the Jews wandered for forty years, where John the Baptist was calling people to repentance, and where Jesus was tempted.

    God uses the wilderness. It’s not a comfortable place, but it is in those bleak and hopeless places in our lives that God does some of His best work.

    This isn’t a desert, but it is deserted. It is a great place for Jesus to pray. Why did Jesus pray? The same reason we pray…to talk with the Father. To submit. To listen. To be filled with the Holy Spirit.

    I believe Jesus sets an example for us to follow. Some of you saw the movie War Room. Jesus didn’t have a dedicated place, but he sacrificed sleep to surrender, to be with the Father.

    Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” (Mark 1:36-37)

    I’m guessing they did not get up early and look for Jesus in the dark. It’s even more unlikely that the crowds were looking for Jesus very early in the morning. Jesus devoted serious time to prayer, most likely several hours. Based upon the text, Jesus has four followers at this point. They aren’t even called disciples yet, but mere companions. They aren’t listening to Jesus, they frantically talking to him. The original Greek conveys the idea that they were hunting for Jesus. I can just hear them. “There you are! The crowds are looking for you! Come on! You can pray later!”

    Jesus replied,
    “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (Mark 1:38-39)

    Jesus is a man on the run…or walk! He tells them he came to preach, which he does…and drives out demons. He didn’t come to heal, he came to preach. Healing gave him credibility and authority, but it wasn’t his primary purpose. He came to call people to repentance, to change, to follow him. He didn’t come to do magic tricks. He came to preach. This is the last time Jesus’ preaching is mentioned in the gospel of Mark. He will later send the twelve apostles to “proclaim” or “preach” the message.

    What did he preach? We saw a few weeks ago in verse 15:

    “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

    Returning to verse 38…

    Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (Mark 1:38-39)

    Jesus has little success in his hometown of Nazareth or here in Capernaum. Later in Matthew’s gospel Jesus will denounce Capernaum.

    And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.  For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. (Matthew 11:23)

    Yikes! So Jesus and the four fishermen travel, preach, and drive out demons.

    A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1:40)

    He doesn’t ask to be physically healed, but rather to be made clean, a spiritual and social change. This word “leprosy” was used for as many as 72 different skin conditions. I made the mistake—or not—of doing a Google Image search for “leper.” It was so shocking and tragic. Here’s what the law prescribed for lepers:

    “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46)

    In several Old Testament stories, people were punished by God with leprosy, so imagine what people thought of lepers.

    - They were physically sick
    - They were considered unclean, unholy
    - They had to live alone and stay 50 paces away from others

    Both the medical disease and the spiritual impurity were considered contagious. Lepers couldn’t work so they had to beg. It was catastrophic in many ways—physical, spiritual, social, financial. The man asks to be clean rather than healed because social and spiritual restoration mattered more than his physical body.

    Lepers were untouchables…literally. Can you image never being touched by another human?

    Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man.
    “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. (Mark 1:41-42)

    Obviously, the man got within 50 paces of Jesus since Jesus touched him. That touch must have been incredible! Anyone in sight would’ve thought Jesus was crazy to contaminate himself with a leper. Instead, Jesus transmits wholeness and holiness to the leper. He has authority. He has power. And he has given it to us through the Holy Spirit.

    Why was Jesus indignant and angry? Some translations say he was moved with compassion, others that he was filled with pity. Compassion makes the most logical sense, but if he was actually angry, it probably wasn’t because the man broke the 50-pace barrier. Anger doesn’t seem to fit the interruption. Most scholars suggest he was angry at the evil forces who claimed the leper as their victim. That would be holy, righteous anger. We need to be angry at sin, at injustice, at evil.

    Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 
    “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” (Mark 1:43-44)

    Jesus sends the leper away. The word to describe Jesus’ strong warning is used to describe a horse snorting! He is serious! Perhaps he risked attracting people who only wanted to see magic tricks rather than listen to his preaching.

    Was this reverse psychology on the part of Jesus? Keep your healing a secret. Is that even fair?! People aren’t going to notice the leper is healed? But Jesus seems to be saying to the man, “Don’t blow my cover!”

    The priest was to determine whether or not a person had leprosy and whether they were cured. I’m grateful that’s not in my job description! You can read more about the treatment of lepers in Leviticus 13 and 14. The cleaning is an eight-day process with sacrifices. Of course, without the priest’s approval, the man cannot re-enter society.

    Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. (Mark 1:45)

    He disobeyed Jesus’ strong warning! He proclaims the news. The publicity leads to audiences rather than congregations, fans rather than followers. Donovan notes four ironies:

    1) A disobedient man is one of the first to preach the good news about Jesus
    2) Jesus’ popular hurts rather than helps his ministry
    3) The leper begins outside of society and is restored to it. Jesus begins in public and has to live outside. The two men trade places!
    4) Jesus’ power to heal becomes the reason he cannot move about

    But he didn’t have to move. The people came to him!

    So What?

    I want to end by going back to the beginning. Before Jesus heals the leper, he spent time alone with God.

    Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

    This is where he sacrificed. This is where he prepared. This is where he worked.

    This week is the beginning of the NBA Finals. For the first time in NBA history, the same teams—Cleveland and Golden State—will face each other for the third year in a row. Millions will watch the marquis matchups including LeBron James and Stephen Curry. The players will give their all for 60 minutes. But the real work is done before the games. In the weight room. During practice. Making good choices at mealtime. In mental preparation.

    NBA players don’t spend every day lounging around watching Netflix, drive to the arena, play for an hour, and then go to bed and do it all the next day. They train. Most of the work is done off the court.

    This is true for Jesus. He didn’t just show up for work, preach and heal. He prepared when no one was looking. His private life made his public life possible.

    Many want to play in the NBA, but few are willing to do the hard work off the court to be ready at game time.

    Many want to do miracles, but few are willing to do the hard work on their knees to be ready.

    What about you? How committed are you to following Jesus? What have you sacrificed? Sleep? Time? Money? Energy? Dreams?

    Are you willing to pay the price to radically follow Jesus…or are you just a fan?

    N.T. Wright writes,

    As we Christians pray today, especially when this prayer is costly and sacrificial, not merely a perfunctory few minutes now and then, the presence of this same Jesus is promised, by his Spirit, to guide and encourage us. Part of this guidance will be the discernment to know when to speak and when to be silent, when what we are called to do should be kept secret and when it should be celebrated publicly. Sometimes, in some countries and in certain situations, some Christians will know, in prayer, that it is better not to attract too much attention to themselves. This isn’t cowardice; it’s wisdom. But if, as in Jesus’ case, word leaks out anyway, we can remain confident, especially through prayer, that this same Jesus is with us as we face the cost of being kingdom-people, bringing the news and power of Jesus’ healing love to the world.

    Memorial Day

    Memorial Day is our country’s most hallowed and somber holiday. It’s not a day to honor our military—that’s veteran’s day—but to remember those who paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom. I’m grateful for their sacrifice and would like to pause for a moment of silence to remember them.

    I’m also grateful for the true heroes of the faith—men, women and children who paid the ultimate price to follow Jesus. History is filled with martyrs. You can learn about them at

    The Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimates 90,000 Christians were murdered for their faith last year. That’s like filling 5/3 Field nine times! At least 29 died Friday in Egypt, including children.

    What would possess a person to die for their faith? Passion, commitment, and quality time with God in prayer. I freely admit I’m a spiritual wimp. I need more quality time with the LORD…not because I’m a pastor, but because I claim to follow Jesus. That requires action. It involves preparation. It necessitates sacrifice.


    As we continue to look at the life of Jesus, it’s easy to be awed by his miracles and teachings. But his public ministry was only possible because of his private preparation. He invites us to follow his example.

    some ideas from NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, and Richard Niell Donovan.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Supernatural: Exorcism & Healings

    Supernatural: Exorcism & Healings
    Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
    Mark 1:21-34

    Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

    Big Idea: The supernatural world is real, and so is the Holy Spirit.

    Who is Jesus? This is the question we’re asking in our series on the gospel—or good news—of Mark.

    In the first verse of the book we see Jesus introduced as the Messiah and Son of God. Then we examined John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin who prepared the way for His arrival. Next we discussed Jesus’ preparation for public ministry through baptism and temptation. Last week we looked at an invitation from Jesus, an invitation He is still making to us thousands of years later, to follow him.

    I want to make a brief addendum to last week’s message.

    I’ve become frustrated by those who communicate the gospel is about praying a prayer to avoid hell and go to heaven when you die.

    The gospel is Jesus. The gospel is Jesus is LORD. Christ is not his last name. He is the Jesus the Messiah. He is King Jesus.

    I mentioned John 3:16.

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

    I listened to Scot McKnight’s Kingdom Roots Podcast last week and he did a fascinating interview with Matthew Bates, author of Salvation by Allegiance (KR 51).

    The question is,
    “Who are you believing in?”

    If Jesus is Savior, then faith means trust in his saving work or trust in him who can save
    If Jesus is LORD, then faith means submit or to bow down to
    If Jesus is King, then faith means a declaration of allegiance and loyalty to serve that king and to serve in that king’s army

    What does it mean when you say you believe in Jesus? You believe in the historical figure and that he died and rose again…or he is your LORD and King and you submit to him and declare your allegiance to serve him?

    Remember, believing that there is a God is no big deal. Even the demons believe that, we’re told in James 2:19!

    We are to submit, serve, and declare our allegiance to King Jesus.

    The Supernatural. Does it excite you? Does it scare you? Why? In our passage for today, we get a front-row seat to see the authority and power of Jesus.

    He has just asked two pairs of brothers to follow him.

    They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. (Mark 1:21)

    What did he teach? We’re not sure. How did teach? With authority! With power!

    The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. (Mark 1:22)

    This is Mark’s first hint that Jesus will face opposition—opposition that will claim his life. He would be crucified because of the envy of religious leaders.

    Mark continues…

    Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:23-24)

    He was possessed by an impure spirit. What do we make of this? A man cries out in the synagogue, identifies Jesus, speaks in the plural, and is obviously threatened. The “us” is a reference to all the demonic forces. This wouldn’t be the last time Jesus would have conflict with demons.

    I’ve preached hundreds of sermons. I’ve been interrupted, but never like this!

    Mark clearly shows us the world of the supernatural is real. And it submits to Jesus.

    “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. (Mark 1:25-26)

    What is this? The people asked the same thing!

    The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”  News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. (Mark 1:27-28)

    Many of you have read this story, but imagine you know nothing about Jesus, you attend synagogue, his teaching amazes you, and then he exorcises an impure spirit before your very eyes.

    No wonder news traveled fast about Jesus…and they didn’t even have CNN! This was the first miracle Mark mentions. Jesus had authority and backed it up with power. But there’s more!

    As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. (Mark 1:29-31)

    Jesus heals the Peter’s wife’s mother. Notice we don’t even know her name, but she has a fever—which was actually a very big deal back then, more than a symptom but a serious condition. Notice Mark’s details. Jesus goes to her, takes her hand, helps her out of bed, and it says the fever left her. Did he pray? Exactly when did the fever leave her? When he touched her? When she stood up? We don’t know.

    We do know she went straight to the kitchen, made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, and served them with glasses of cold milk. Ok, we don’t have those details, but Jesus actually benefits in small way from healing her. I’m sure that wasn’t his motivation, of course.

    Jesus teaches with authority.
    Jesus casts out impure spirits with authority.
    Jesus heals with authority.

    What a day! And he wasn’t done.

    That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. (Mark 1:32-34)

    If you were with Jesus and didn’t believe in the supernatural in the morning, you surely did by the time you went to bed.

    The demons knew Jesus. Do they know you?

    So What?

    I know some of you are looking for simple answers and resolve everything. I’ve got to be honest and say this text actually raises several questions for me.

    Why are exorcisms common in the New Testament and we rarely see or hear about them today, unless it’s Halloween? Where did all the demons go? No, mental illness is not a sure sign of demons.

    Should we be performing exorcisms? I actually participate in one in college. It was low-key but very cool. I would love for our church to do whatever it takes to help people experience joy, freedom, peace, and life. If that means exorcisms, let’s do it—carefully. The supernatural is not something you mess around with, but it is a reality we must accept an experience. We have been given authority from Jesus. We often forget the beginning of the famous Great Commission text:

    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

    Why doesn’t God heal today? Oh wait, he does! There is power in the name of Jesus.


    Jesus had authority and power. All authority—in heaven and on earth! The exciting news is he said it was good that he ascended so the Holy Spirit to come. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit arrived! Jesus said,

    Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

    The supernatural world is real. We can engage it, but we must do so wisely. Demons are real and powerful. But God is greater. The Holy Spirit is available to each of you, but you must surrender. You must repent and believe, as we noted last Sunday. You must let go and let God…be your Lord and King.

    Jesus had power and authority. We have been given authority. Let’s use it…wisely.

    Credits: some ideas from NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Going Back in Order to Go Forward, 17 April 2016

    Going Back in Order to Go Forward
    Series: Go Deeper
    Genesis 50:15-21

  • Series Theme
  • “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

  • The Big Idea: The second pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to embrace our past, breaking free from the destructive sinful patterns of our past to live the life of love that God intends.

  • Pete Scazzero notes two essential biblical truths:

    1. The blessings and sins of our families going back two to three generations profoundly impact who we are today.

    2. Discipleship requires putting off the sinful patterns of our family of origin and re-learning how to do life God’s way in God’s family.


    What comes to mind when I say the word…family? My guess is for some it conjures up positive emotions while for others negative ones.

    The Background

    We all come from broken families. Some are certainly more functional than others, but since the first child, Cain, killed his brother Abel, we have passed down dysfunction and sin from generation to generation.

    Joseph’s story fills the last quarter of the book of Genesis. His family is about as dysfunctional as they come.

    a. He comes from a blended family. His dad had children from two wives and two concubines. Twelve sons all lived together.

    b. Joseph was clearly the special son, making his brothers jealous.

    c Joseph’s brothers sell him off and tell their dad that he was killed by an animal.

    He is sold into slavery, then rots in a prison for years on false rape charges.

    How would you feel sitting in a prison cell for years for something you did not do? What would you think/feel about your family? About God?

    Family Genogram

    Joseph is the eleventh child, one of twelve brothers and one sister. Here is his family genogram, showing not only his family tree but also key features of his family:

    Take some time to sketch your family genogram.

    Joseph has three major traumas

    1. At age 17, he is thrown into a deep well by his brothers (Genesis 37).

    2. He gets sold as a slave for $80,000 (two years wages) and his father is told he is dead. He loses his language, culture, family, freedom, everything!

    3. He was in prison unjustly for many years (Genesis 39-40).

    Twenty-two years later, he encounters his brothers (Genesis 42).

    He had every reason to be bitter and enslaved by his past. Instead, he clearly understands his heritage but allows God, not his family of origin, to determine his future.

    When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

    His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

    But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21)

    Joseph breaks from the “normal” family tradition by forgiving his brothers. What would you have done?

    What has Joseph learned about himself, God, and his family (see 19-21)?

    Genesis 50:20 is a summary of the Old Testament.

    5 Basic Needs be Met for Healthy Development (Pesso)

    -- need for “place” the world was waiting for your arrival; you were wanted
    -- need for nurture words and touch
    -- need for support loving, caring environments
    -- need for protection physically, emotionally from harm
    -- need for limits boundaries (see Townsend and )

    Sin and rebellion destroy families from God’s original intention

    Cain and Abel were just the beginning! All of our families are messed up! Jesus allows us to be born again, but we cannot ignore our past. We must put off the sinful elements of our past to become transformed and a blessing to the world.


    We must know what went on deep beneath the surface of our family.

    Ten Commandments of Your Family

    Which of the following messages were sent to you by your family, spoken or unspoken?

    1. Money
    Money is the best source of security.
    The more money you have, the more important your are.

    2. Conflict
    Avoid conflict at all costs.
    Don’t get people mad at you.
    Loud, angry, constant fighting is normal.

    3. Sex
    Sex is not to be spoken about openly.
    Men can be promiscuous but women must be chaste.
    Sexuality in marriage will come easily.

    4. Grief and Loss
    Sadness is a sign of weakness.
    You are not allowed to be depressed.
    Get over losses quickly and move on.

    5. Expressing Anger
    Anger is dangerous and bad.
    Explode in anger to make a point.
    Sarcasm is an acceptable way to release anger.

    6. Family
    Duty to family & culture comes before everything.
    You owe your parents for all they’ve done for you.
    Don’t speak of your family’s “dirty laundry” in public.

    7. Relationships
    Don’t trust people. They will let you down.
    Nobody will ever hurt me again.
    Don’t show vulnerability.

    8. Attitudes toward other cultures
    Only be close friends with people who are like you.
    Do not marry a person of another race or culture.
    Certain cultures/races are not as good as mine.

    9. Success
    Is getting to into the ”best schools.”
    Is making lots of money.
    Is getting married and having children.

    10. Feelings and Emotions
    You are not allowed to have certain feelings.
    Your feelings are not important.
    Reacting with your feelings without thinking is okay.

    3 Practical Applications

    1. 1. Recognize the iceberg in you from your family

    We can easily ignore or underestimate it. The effect of our families is deeper than any of us realize. Your family is filled with patterns. We all have negative patterns. When we recognize them, we can choose to maintain or change them. When you are unaware of them, you are doomed to pass them on.

    1. 2. Discern the good God intends “in, through, and in spite of,” your family and past

    God knew what He was doing. He has a great plan for you and your life. God is working in a hidden, mysterious way. He was doing it in Joseph’s life and He’s doing it in you. We are often unaware of what God is doing, but He can be trusted. Joseph trusts God. He knows that God is good and God is sovereign (in control). He knows God. He certainly spent many years in prayer and solitude.

    1. 3. Make the decision to do the hard work of discipleship

    This includes silence, solitude, Scripture, and small groups. Discipleship is breaking the sinful patterns of our past and being recreated into the image of Jesus Christ.

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2Corinthians 5:17

    Pete Scazzero writes

    “Going back in order to go forward is something we must do in the context of community—with mature friends, a mentor, spiritual director, counselor, or therapist. We need trusted people in our lives of whom we can ask, ‘How do you experience me? Tell me the feelings and thoughts you have when you are with me. Please be honest with me.’ Prayerfully listening to their answers will go a long way toward healing and getting a perspective on areas of our lives that need to be addressed. Needless to say, this takes a lot of courage.”

    Four Lessons From Joseph’s Life

    1. 1. He understood God’s goodness and love, even during the storms
    2. 2. He expressed his emotions and loss, allowing him to truly forgive
    3. 3. He moved forward despite his past
    4. 4. He partnered with God to bless others

    The Good News

    God is in the business of transformation! His grace (unmerited favor) and love are endless. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a new creation. God is your father. Your sins are forgiven. You have been given a new name. You have been given a new inheritance. You have been given new brothers and sisters (Ephesians 1).

    In the movie
    “Good Will Hunting,” Sean (Robin Williams) repeatedly tells his patient Will Hunting, “It’s not your fault.” We are all products of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. We have all been dealt an imperfect deck. But it can be restored. There is hope in Jesus Christ. His plans for you are fantastic!

    Are you willing to go back in order to go forward? Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Fear of bringing secrets and sin into the light paralyzes so many followers of Jesus from truly experiencing the abundant life and transformation that Jesus wants us to experience.

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

    Questions for Discussion

    What words would describe the way your family related to one another when you were growing up?

    What does this text tell us about God?

    What does this text tell us about ourselves?

    On a scale of 1 (very troubled) to 100 (very nurturing), how would you describe your family?

    What messages did you receive from your parents or guardians as a child?

    What “earthquake” events sent “aftershocks” into your family?

    How do these messages compare to messages you have received about God’s family?

    What one area needs the most change?

    How does your family of origin impact you today? What areas do you need to address in order to move forward?

    Take some time to sketch your family genogram.

  • Credits and Stuff

    Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

    Series outline and ideas from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

    Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
    The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

    Other study questions from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Jesus our Healer, The Gospel Truth, 22 March 2015

    Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

    Big Idea: Jesus is our Healer. He created us and is able to recreate us.

    What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “healer?”

    I usually think about the miraculous physical healings Jesus performed. Here are a few mentioned by Matthew:

    Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24)

    Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. (Matthew 9:35)

    Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. (Matthew 12:15)

    When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

    Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. (Matthew 15:30)

    Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. (Matthew 19:2)

    The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. (Matthew 21:14)

    These are just the general mentions of healing from Matthew. They don’t include any of the specific encounters Jesus had with the sick, blind, lame…or even dead!

    Jesus healed. That’s clear to everyone…except those who disbelieve miracles and the Bible!

    But our topic today is Jesus
    our Healer. Does God still heal today? Does He only do it on TV with wild preachers and people falling down? Why don’t we go to U-M and St. Joe’s hospitals and close them down through prayers of healing?

    In The Beginning

    In the beginning…God created…and it was good. Sure, it wasn’t good for man to be alone, but God remedied that and therefore Adam and Eve lived in a pain-free, disease-free paradise called Eden.

    And then all hell broke loose, quite literally.

    The serpent got Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit and God said to Eve,

    “…I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

    God said to Adam

    “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:17)

    Pain entered the world that horrific day. It was the consequence of sin. It came under the influence of our enemy, satan, who comes

    …only to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10a)

    As a result, we live in a broken world, a world with broken bodies, broken relationships, broken finances, broken souls, broken governments, broken homes, broken…toilets! You get the idea!

    It will not always be like this. Someday…

    ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

    I can’t wait! Maranatha! Come quickly, LORD Jesus!

    But what do we do in the meantime? How do we deal with pain and brokenness?

    1. First, God does still heal today. I will attempt to prove it shortly! It does not require a televangelist or sending money to help buy a private jet for a faith healer. God heals, but sometimes chooses to say wait or no when we ask.

    On the one extreme there are those who do not believe in healing or miracles. There are Christians who believe healing was only for biblical times; we have the Bible so we don’t need the power of God. I’m overstating, somewhat, but the essence is they believe the Holy Spirit is on vacation. There’s plenty of recent and historic evidence to suggest healing is real today. I believe there are many doctors who once believed only medicine could heal, only to experience miracles first-hand with no explanation.

    On the other extreme there are those who believe God always heals and any sickness is the result of the person’s personal sin…or lack of faith. This is a common message today in the “name it and claim it” movement that essentially says if you’re not healthy and rich it’s because you need more faith. It’s your fault! This is nothing new.

    His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

    “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:2-3)

    The entire book of Job is about a righteous man who experienced horrific pain.

    Jesus, the most righteous Person in history, endured the most horrific suffering.

    Pain and sickness is the result of sin, but not necessarily the sin of the sick. For example, hospitals are filled with the innocent victims of drunk drivers. It has been alleged that some allergies are caused by man-made chemicals and pollution.

    Jesus was a healer and He continues to heal today.

    Even during His years on earth Jesus gave others the authority to heal.

    Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (Matthew 10:1)

    Perhaps the most radical statement on healing is found in the fourteenth chapter of John.

    Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

    He was going to the Father and would send the Holy Spirit.

    2. The power to heal comes from Jesus

    We do not believe in faith healing. It’s not from our faith, but from Jesus. Faith is a precious gift from God, but we are not healed by our faith. We are healed by God. Jesus healed in a variety of ways. Sometimes He spoke, sometimes He touched, sometimes He simply announced healing for a person not even in His presence. He still heals in a variety of ways today. In some instances faithless people are healed through the prayers of others praying for them. Healing can occur through the laying on of hands and the anointing of oil. Sometimes it comes through medicine, doctors, and other health care tools.

    It should be noted that healing is not always a physical change. Our sinful world has left many of us broken spiritually, emotionally, financially, and relationally. We are blessed to have godly biblical counselors available to help people heal from a variety of pains and struggles, trials that can be every bit as wounding as a car accident or cancer.

    3. The purpose of divine healing is to glorify Jesus.

    Jesus’ miracles authenticated the message and the Messenger. He also healed to show His compassion. Furthermore, Jesus healed to show salvation now. The Kingdom of God is here now…but we haven’t experienced it all yet. It’s like a down payment on what is to come, the now and the not yet. We have something, but not yet everything that will be ours when Christ returns.

    My Story: Rachel Schneemann

    When this subject came up, I immediately knew who I wanted to speak on this subject, our daughter Rachel.

    What comes to mind when you think of Jesus our Healer?

    Has God healed you? How? Have you participated in the healing process?

    Why doesn’t God instantly heal every person who asks for healing?

    Is sickness the result of sin? Unbelief?

    Has God only healed you physically?

    What would you say to someone who wants to be healed?

    So What?

    Do you want to be healed? Why?

    When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

    If you want to be healed,

    1. Ask

    Jesus’ half brother James wrote,

    You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2)

    He added

    Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 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. 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. (James 5:13-15)

    2. Confess.

    Some brokenness is the result of sin. Bitterness, for example, has been shown to have physical consequences. The passage from James continues…

    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 5:16)

    3. Persevere. Sometimes God says, “Yes.” Sometimes He says, “Wait.”

    As a dad, I don’t instantly give my kids everything they desire. Sometimes I do, but sometimes I say no or later.

    Rachel’s story has involved years of prayers.

    Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

    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 5:11)

    In discussing prayer, Jesus said

    “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10)

    4. Trust. Daddy knows best. He can be trusted. His timing is never late but rarely early!

    Why Doesn’t God Heal Everyone?

    Great question! It’s in my top ten questions for God!

    Paul had a thorn in the flesh. We don’t know what it was, perhaps an issue with his eyesight. Three times God said no to his request to have it removed. (2 Corinthians 12:6-10)

    The purpose of healing is always about the glory of Christ.

    Whether in giving or witholding, it’s about His glory.

    Often it’s about His timing. The sisters of Lazarus thought Jesus was 4 days late to the scene, yet the delay facilitated a resurrection that brought greater glory to God than a conventional healing (John 11).

    We live in the now and the not yet. There are beautiful moments when heaven touches earth, when God reveals His presence and power in amazing ways, giving us a taste of and a deeper longing for heaven.

    Jesus promised us,
    “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

    He is with us…always. I don’t pretend to understand why He says “no” or “later,” but I know God is good, He is faithful, and
    nothing is impossible with our God.

    “Healer” (reprise)


    For Further Reading

    Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

    Pain, The Gift Nobody Wants by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey

    Where Is God When It Hurts?
    By Philip Yancey


    Some material taken from
    The Fourfold Gospel, a C&MA/DNA publication.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Enough, John 11:1-37, 10 March 2013

    Big Idea: Do you trust God because of what He does or for who He is? Is Jesus enough…or is your love for Him conditional?

    Song: I Give You My Heart by Rueben Morgan

    Do you trust God? Completely?

    LORD, I give You my heart
    I give You my soul
    I live for You alone
    With every breath that I take
    Every moment I’m awake
    LORD have Your way in me

    What would lead You to so fully surrender your life?

    Is it because Jesus died for you?
    Is it because God created you?
    Is it because you have experienced His presence and power?
    Is it because you have witnessed answered prayer?
    Is it because someone told you it’s the proper thing to do?

    Or is it simply because you love and want Jesus for who He is?


    We continue our series on the Gospel of John, a biography written by one of Jesus’ best friends. His purpose in writing can be found in chapter 20:

    Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:30-31)

    The first ten chapters have presented Jesus as a controversial figure, attracting great crowds through miracles and teachings while creating great hatred among the envious, legalistic, judgmental religious leaders.

    It’s easy to skim through familiar stories, but as we read the narrative, imagine you had never heard it previously. Imagine that you have no idea what follows and each word is a choice morsel in your ears. I’ll warn you: we are not going to finish the story today. You may know the ending, but suspend that information and absorb just today’s Scripture with me.

    Much like a stage play, this story has several scenes.

    Scene One: The Death of Lazarus (1-16)

    Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (1-3)

    There are three siblings. They are not especially wealthy as Beth-any means “house of the poor.” Martha was a busybody who we’re told in Luke 10 worked around the house while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. Jesus loved Lazarus their brother and he was sick.

    When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (4-6)

    The Father is glorified through the glory of the Son.

    I’m sure they were relieved to know that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death. Still, if Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, why did He linger for two days? Most likely He was praying, praying for Lazarus and wisdom. Remember, everything Jesus said and did had tremendous consequences from both the crowds and critics. He was a wanted man, in two different ways.

    Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” (7)

    “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” (8)

    Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” (9-10)

    Jesus is the light of the world.

    After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (11)

    His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. (12-13)

    Death has a new name for the believer: sleep. Only the body dies. The soul does not. Resurrection always refers to the body. Our bodies do not have souls. Rather, our souls have bodies.

    So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (14-15)

    Jesus was glad? Jesus had spent time with the Father and obeyed His plan. God would redeem this tragic death and use it for His glory.

    Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (16)

    Thomas was hardly an optimist but at least he was willing to die. If you recall, Jesus is a wanted man and His followers would also be a threat to the religious authorities.

    Jesus rarely follows conventional wisdom. When Lazarus was sick, He stayed away. When He said sleep, He meant dead. He said to go in the daytime to avoid tripping in the dark. N.T. Wright notes,

    “If you try to steer your course by your own understanding, you’ll trip up, because you’ll be in the dark. But if you stick close to him, and see the situation from his point of view, then, even if it means days and perhaps years of puzzlement, wondering why nothing seems to be happening, you will come out at the right place in the end.”

    Scene Two: The Resurrection and the Life (17-27)

    On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. (17-20)

    There is a small crowd here. Many Jews were there to comfort the sisters.

    Four days in the tomb was significant because the rabbinic teachings believed that when a person died, their spirit hovered over the body for three days so if the body was resuscitated, the spirit would return to it. After three days, the spirit was gone and there was no hope for the body.

    “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (21-22)

    Martha says,
    “If only…”

    Perhaps the tone (we don’t know) was, “You’re too late.”

    Have you ever felt like that? God, if only…then…

    Why didn’t you intervene? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did I have to experience…? Why didn’t you do a miracle for me? Why didn’t I get chosen to win the lottery?

    Notice her faith, though. She knew the Father would do whatever Jesus asked. She held out hope for a miracle. Jesus tells her to look forward to the future rather than remaining stuck in the present moment.

    Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” (23)

    Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (24)

    There were two popular religious tribe, the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees who did not.

    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (25-26)

    This is a great declaration! It is the fifth of seven “I am” statements Jesus will make in John. When He says He is the resurrection and the life, He is saying that He is the very power of God unto life. He is life for all of His people. If you believe in Him, you will never die. He doesn’t say He can perform resurrections, He says that He
    is the resurrection…and the life. Jesus is life (John 10:10)!

    “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

    This was the testimony of Simon Peter, too.

    Scene Three: Jesus Goes To The Tomb (28-37)

    And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

    There is something powerful about the presence of friends in the midst of grief. It can be frustrating when we comfort others. What do we say? What do we do? I have learned that often words are unnecessary. “I’m sorry for your loss” and possibly a hug are enough.

    When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (32)

    Mary says,
    “If only…”

    Perhaps the tone again (we don’t know) was, “You’re too late.”

    It’s better for us to have the Holy Spirit than to have Jesus in the flesh.

    When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

    “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

    There are two words here that need to be clarified. In the Greek, the word translated “weeping” is better stated as “loud wailing and crying.” The word “troubled” in the original Greek was more accurately translated “irate.”

    When Jesus saw her wailing, and the Jews who had come along with her also wailing, he was outraged and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

    “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
    (33-34; edited)

    Jesus saw everyone around Him weeping and He groaned in anger. Why? The sisters’ lack of faith? I believe it was the reality of death. He created our beautiful universe and sin has been slowly destroying it. This world is not the way it’s supposed to be. Sometimes I get angry at death, at cancer, at disease, at injustice. In Jesus’ case, He knew that in a few days
    He would encounter death.

    Jesus wept. (35)

    There it is—the shortest verse in the Bible!

    Jesus, the Son of God, the eternal Word of God, cried. Why? He lost a dear friend, but knew that loss would be reversed. Was it because of their unbelief? Most likely He cried as He grieved with Mary and Martha and their great loss. He could’ve said, “Hey! Stop crying! Watch this!” Instead, He has empathy and shares their heartache and pain.

    Death is a horrible reality in our broken world and we need to grieve. Jesus grieved. Perhaps you’ve been told to ignore grief and sadness since “all things work together for the good” but that is to deny the emotions given to us by God and experienced by God. Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

    Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (36-37)

    It was obvious that Jesus loved Lazarus. The Jews asked a fair question, and of course Jesus could’ve kept Lazarus from dying, but God’s ways are higher than our ways. His plans and purposes and timing far exceed our imagination. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to ask, “Why, LORD?” The Scriptures are filled with God-fearing men and women that asked questions of God.

    Ultimately the question is
    do you trust God?

    It’s rather audacious for us to think that we know better than God. Last Sunday night we watched the first episode of The Bible on The History Channel. It was a violent, bloody show depicting many Old Testament scenes that caused many to question how God could endorse the slaughter of first-born Egyptians, the destruction of Sodom, and let’s not forget the complete annihilation of every living creature that failed to get on Noah’s ark.

    Doubt and questions expressed with humility and respect are one thing. Shaking your fist at God, judging
    Him, is quite another. After Job’s life was all but destroyed, God provided some perspective beginning with the 38th chapter.

    Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? (Job 38:3-5)

    “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? (Job 38:12-13)

    “Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? (Job 39:19-20)

    The LORD said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

    Then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy — how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:1-5)

    If you judge God, remember that God himself got out of His judgment seat to become the chief of sinners and be judged with you and by you. God feels our pain more than we can imagine because He suffered and died…for us and for our sin. Nobody knows and understands pain like Jesus.

    God is sovereign and in control.
    God is omnipotent and all-powerful.
    God is omniscient and knows all.
    God is omnipresent and everywhere.

    Again, I think it’s appropriate to ask questions of God, but making demands of Him is ludicrous. He’s God and we’re not. We can rejoice that He is not only all of those “omnis” but also that He is slow to anger and abounding in love, gracious, merciful and compassionate. We can celebrate that we
    don’t get what we deserve, for we have all offended the Holy God and fall short of His standards of righteousness.

    This does not mean that we should turn funerals into parties and dance for joy in the midst of tragedy. It does mean, however, that God has a plan. He always has a plan. His timing can be trusted. His ways can be trusted. Yet knowing He is sovereign and in control and watching Him ignore or delay our cries for help necessitates and even increases our grief, but it is a hopeful grief—a very, very bitter but hopeful grief. The bottom line is not happiness, but His glory. LORD, be glorified!

    I’m in the midst of one of the most urgent seasons of prayer in my life, begging God to heal my girl. The medical experts thought she should improve after three weeks of intense treatments, yet more than six months later she remains unable to walk.

    What is your plan, LORD? What are You waiting for? I know You can heal her. Show Your power. The doctors gave up so now You can get all of the glory. We’ll even post her healing on Facebook for all of the world to see!

    I believe with all of my heart that she will walk again. For months I have been wrestling with God about the timing! This week I cried, “Uncle!” and surrendered it to Him. Until I start to worry and get impatient again!

    The story is not over. Your story is not over. There is more to come. An exciting future awaits us. In the meantime, we must trust God and wait patiently (Psalm 40).

    One of my favorite musical artists, Kirk Franklin, posted this on Tuesday:

    So if God has my problem already worked out, why do I still go through it? Because what He DOESN'T have worked out yet is your attitude...That's what the problem is for. Go.

    Do you trust God because of what He does or for who He is? Is your love for Him conditional...or is Jesus enough?

    You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Vision, John 9, 17 February 2013

    Big Idea: God wants us to see.


    There are several themes in this lengthy account. Religious leaders show their lack of vision while a blind man is able to see. The Sabbath, suffering, religion, and the influence of Jesus are all presented.


    As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (1-2)

    Some Hindus believe disabilities are punishment for sins committed in a previous life.

    The book of Job is clear about this. Though God does discipline those that He loves, often our pain and trials are not the result of sin.

    When our child was first hospitalized six years ago, there were those that subtly and not-so-subtly implied that her pain was the result of our sin. We were being punished for secret sins. My wife and I searched our hearts and came to the conclusion that if there was secret sin in our lives, it was so secret that we were unaware of it. We acknowledged that we were far from perfect, but there was nothing unusual in our actions that caused our child to be in excruciating pain.

    So why do bad things happen to good people? We don’t have time to fully unpack that question, but let me briefly suggest two things. First, none of us are truly good. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory. Second, sin is the reason. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, all of creation has been a mess.

    “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (3-5)

    Don’t misunderstand this text.

    God is not cruel, inflicting pain on people to glorify Himself.

    At the same time, God is not fair. Bad things do happen to good people. But God is good and He can be trusted.

    Daddy knows best…really!

    “So that the work of God” likely refers not to what precedes it but rather to what follows. See how different it looks...

    “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus. “But so that the work of God might be displayed in his life, as long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (3-5)

    God did not make the man blind to show His glory.

    Rather, God sent Jesus to do works of healing to show His glory.

    I want to pause here for a moment because many of you are experiencing pain and suffering. You might not be blind, but you or a loved one are in the midst of a disability, a shattered dream, or an overwhelming trial.

    I’m with you!

    I’ve tried to take the letter “Y” out of the alphabet because I find myself asking it all the time. Why God? Sometimes we discover why, sometimes we don’t, but God can be trusted.

    Today I prayed for vision to see what God is doing. I don’t understand, but I know He is at work in and through me, my family, and the storm we are experiencing. I want Him to just change the situation. Sometimes He does. Sometimes He doesn’t. Daddy knows best.

    Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (6-7)

    This would not be my preferred method of healing! Spit was thought to be a curse. Jesus was essentially cursing the blindness. The man is healed. This is great news, right? The man was blind, now he sees. Praise God! End of story.

    Not so fast!

    His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

    Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

    But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

    “How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded. (8-10)
    The people are demanding to know what happened.

    He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

    “Where is this man?” they asked him.

    “I don’t know,” he said.

    The man didn’t know, but the entire Gospel of John is written so that we can find Jesus.

    They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” (13-15)

    Whenever the Pharisees are involved, you know it’s going to get ugly!

    Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

    But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.

    Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

    The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

    This poor guy has been miraculously healed and all they can do is subject him to an interrogation.

    The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” (18-19)

    Talk about a lack of faith! They don’t believe that the man was ever blind.

    “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

    A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” (20-24)

    This is a huge deal! Getting kicked out of the synagogue was not like being asked to leave a local church. It was like getting kicked out of the city. Even today, the synagogue is not merely the place of worship, but the social center of the Jewish community.

    The Pharisees hated Jesus—as we have seen in previous weeks. They are jealous of Him and the crowds He is attracting from His miracles and teaching. The healed man’s parents are afraid.

    He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

    Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

    He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

    Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

    The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

    To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

    Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (25-35)

    We were all steeped in sin at birth, but the self-righteous Pharisees continued to believe that this man and his parents were responsible for his blindness.

    “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

    Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

    Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

    Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

    Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”

    Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. (36-41)

    The story ends the opposite of its beginning. The blind man can see and the accusers claim to see clearly when, in fact, they cannot.

    The religious leaders that are supposedly righteous are filled with pride and envy while the supposed sinner is seen worshiping Jesus.

    Which bring us to my favorite question about any text...so what?

    Jesus healed a blind man and they both attracted self-righteous critics. So what?

    Here are a few things to consider:

    1. Suffering is part of our world. It is to be expected, yet it seems to surprise us.

    It all goes back to the Garden. Sin entered the world—not just Adam and Eve—when they ate of the fruit.

    2. We are addicted to comfort and safety.

    2/3 of the world suffers daily...constantly.

    This season of Lent and the very nature of fasting can help us empathize with others that have no food or those that are blind.

    3. Following Jesus often makes life more difficult, not less. Jesus said clearly to His followers

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

    Jesus never promised us safety and comfort, but He did promise His presence. He said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)

    1. We need one another.

    It is a lie to think that it’s just about you and Jesus. We were created for community. I need you and you need me. That’s a message for another time, but suffice it to say that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those how mourn.

    5. God may be seem distant or even absent in the midst of suffering, but He is always at work healing our inner lives (see Ephesians 3).

    It is through suffering that I have felt the closest to God. Nobody knows pain like Jesus. Nobody. The apex of human history was Jesus hanging on the cross. He recognized how we had messed up this beautiful world and He came to reverse the curse. He conquered sin and death. It’s hard to experience peace when you are comfortable.

    6. The more we can let go of the idols in our lives and cling to Jesus, the more joy we will experience.

    Some of us look to our health, our bank account, our careers, or even our family members to bring us joy, but Jesus said to follow Him means we need to hate our family and even our own lives in comparison to our love for Him (Luke 14:26).

    We need to live with our hands open—to give and receive.

    Song: Blessed Be Your Name

    7. The best is yet to come. Really.

    We live in the space between the first and second comings of Jesus. We have been given the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is powerful and active. God still heals the blind. There are documented cases all over the world. God still causes the lame to walk. I’m praying that for a special girl right now. Sometimes God says yes to our prayer requests, sometimes no, and sometimes wait. Why? I don’t know. I don’t have easy answers. I can recommend a pile of books. I can tell you to study the book of Job. I can quote you verse after verse of Paul telling us to rejoice, endure, and embrace suffering. I have plenty of questions myself, but I know God is in control, God is good, and God is faithful. This world is not the end. The best is yet to come.

    In the Lord of the Rings film
    The Two Towers, there is a famous quote from Sam in which he says,

    “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

    They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. What are you holding on to? Who are you holding on to?

    Open our eyes, LORD, to see You at work in and through our lives...for Your glory.

    You can listen to the podcast here.

    Do You Want To Get Well? John 5:1-47, 8 July 2012

    Big Idea: Do you want to get well?

    John 5:1-47

    What do you want? Really.

    Yesterday I was listening to a podcast in which the hosts reflected upon what they’d do if they won the lottery.

    If you found a lamp with a genie inside, what would be your three wishes?

     Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
    “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
      Then Jesus said to him,
    “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:1-9a)

    Do you find anything unusual about this passage?

    Jesus’ asks this paralyzed man if he wants to get well. Why?

    Sometimes we don’t know what we want.
    Sometimes we don’t really want what we think we want.
    Sometimes we don’t want what we really need.

    Most of us have heard stories about people who refuse to leave an abusive relationship.

    Maybe you know someone struggling with an addiction but they won’t seek help. They don’t really want to change.

    Change. That’s a loaded word!

    Why is change so hard?

    We fear the unknown.
    The status quo is often comfortable.

    Carl Sandburg once said, “There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.”

    Jesus asks the man, “Do you want to get well?”

    Jesus asks the best questions. They not only lead to an answer, they usually change the entire story.

    How many loaves do you have?
    Who touched Me?
    Whose face is on this coin?
    Will you give Me something to drink?
    My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

    Notice the man’s response. All he can see are the obstacles. He lacks vision.

    These pools were believed to have had magical powers when they were stirred by an angel, but only the first person in the pool could be healed. This man could not walk, much less be the first one in the pool.

    The man waited thirty-eight years to be healed in the pool. He never asked to be healed, but Jesus shows up, blows his mind, and heals his body...without the pool!

    That sounds like Jesus...the friend of sinners, the compassionate One.

    Look at the man’s response to Jesus’ question again. He does not say yes. He explains why he has not been healed.

    Change is hard. If he is healed, he has to work rather than beg. He has to pay taxes. He has to buy a pair of shoes! Everything he has known for nearly 40 years is radically altered.

    Jesus simply tells him to get up. That’s it! No prayer, no mud, no magic wand, no altar call, no plea for money. Get up!

    There’s more to this story, though. One simple verse changes everything...

    The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, (John 5:9b)

    Uh oh! The rest of the chapter shows how religion got in the way of the relationship God wants to establish with us.

    The rulers completely missed the point.

    We’ve talked about the importance of the Sabbath. It is in God’s top ten list...the Ten Commandments. It was created for us to rest and know God.

    Jesus heals...on the Sabbath. Ooohhh!

    Jesus tells him to carry his mat...and it is the Sabbath. Ooohhh!

    Jesus runs into the man again, though.Jesus tells the man to stop sinning, but rather than following Jesus, he blows the whistle on Him.

    Was his sickness the result of sin? We don’t know, but it is possible that there was a correlation.

    So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:16-18)

    Here Jesus is on trial.

    They are prosecuting Jesus.
    They are persecuting Jesus.

    Jesus was not merely unpopular. It says that they tried to kill Him! Why?

    1. He was breaking the Sabbath
    2. He was accused of blasphemy by calling Himself God (which is why He had the authority to break the Sabbath)

    Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:19-23)

    That cleared it up, right?

    The rest of the chapter continues with red-letter words of Jesus to the religious leaders that ultimately call for Jesus’ execution.

    These are very important statements in which Jesus declares that He is God. He is LORD of all, including the Sabbath. The seeds that lead to the crucifixion are clearly sown here in the fifth chapter of John.

    But I want to go back to the beginning...I want to end where we began...

    What do you want?

    Do you want to be healed?
    Do you want a spouse?
    Do you want a job?
    Do you want peace?
    Do you want to impact the lives of others?
    Do you want God to do great things through—and in—you?

    Don’t let your dreams fade!

    Perhaps a more important question before going there is...

    Do you want to be well? Maybe you think you
    are well. We’re all messed up. Each person in this room is sick. We are sick with sin. In fact, if you think you are well, you are more messed up than the rest of us because you are living in denial...and undoubtedly judging the rest of us...but we talked about that two weeks ago with the Samaritan woman.

    It all begins with surrender. Perhaps you are thinking about what you have to do to be healed, but the Living Water has come to us.

    There were various people at the pool:

    Lame: in pain
    Paralyzed: numb
    Blind: no vision

    This sounds like many in the Church. We lack vision, we are hurt and in bondage from our past, or feel detached.

    Jesus doesn’t want us to merely survive like the sick man. He wants us to experience all of the life that He came to bring. That is not to say that there won’t be trials and persecution, but He has a vision for you...for me...for us...that He and only He can accomplish if we allow Him to do so.

    Nothing is impossible with God...especially if you are pursuing His vision for your life.

    It probably won’t happen as you expect it. The paralyzed man thought the pool was the only way to health, but Jesus surprised him.
    It probably won’t happen when you expect it. He was paralyzed for thirty-eight years! Don’t give up. His timing is perfect, but usually slow in our estimation.

    Can you let go of your own fear of change and allow God to make all things new? A new life, a new way of living, that is the Good News of God in Christ.

    Get up and walk, in Jesus’ Name. Get your eyes up and look to Him. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and get them off of yourself!!!

    You can listen to the podcast here.

    Confess Sins To One Another, 6 February 2011

    Big Idea:

    We are created to live in community. Confession is good for the soul...and the body.


    “…confess your sins to each other…” - James 5:16

    …all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
    - Romans 3:23

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9

    For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. - Psalm 103:11-12

    “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. - Isaiah 1:18

    For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time. -1 Timothy 2:5-6

    Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
    Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. - James 5:13-16

    “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. - 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

    A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. - 1 Corinthians 11:28-30

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9


    There is something very powerful about hearing the words, “You are forgiven.” I believe that is one component of this passage in James. As we confess one to another, we are reminded of the reality of our forgiveness.

    Confession is acknowledgment. Repentance is change.

    The first step in repentance is conviction. We feel bad for our actions, either because the Holy Spirit convicts us, a police officer pulls up behind us, or a friend confronts us.

    The second step is confession, agreeing that we have sinned. This is where we admit our sins to God and possibly a pastor, friend, spouse, or family member. This must be specific, not just, “Sorry God for sinning today.”

    Repentance is then changing, literally doing a 180 turn away from our sin and toward God. It is choosing to pursue God rather than our selfish desires.

    Repentance is an ongoing lifestyle that continues until death, not merely a one-time prayer and then do-what-you-want.

    Martin Luther, one of the founders of the Protestant movement, said as part of his protest of the Catholic Church, “All of a Christian’s life is one of repentance.”

    Confession and repentance can have profound effects in our lives. They can restore relationships with one another. They can reconcile our relationship with God. They can result in physical healing. They can even result in the transformation of societies.

    Context matters in any form of communication. We have to embrace all of the Bible, not just the parts that we like. We also need to recognize the different types of literature that are contained in the 66 books. The stories in Genesis are not to be read in the same manner as the poetic Psalms, instructive letters of Paul, or the end-times apocalyptic writings of Revelation.

    In studying the Bible we must first discern what it says, then assess what it meant to the original recipients, seek to understand its meaning for us today, and then apply it.

    Confession releases the angst of secret sins.

    Confession notifies others about how they can pray for you.

    Confession destroys barriers of pride and anger that separate people.

    If we struggle with a sin, we must confess it to those who can provide support. Loving your neighbor as yourself includes praying for them. It also reminds us that we are all sinners saved by grace. We journey together.

    You can listen to the podcast here.