God of the Impossible, 10 May 2020

God of the Impossible
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 9:2-32

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

Big Idea: Nothing is impossible with our great and awesome God.

On the fringes of what has been known for decades as contemporary Christian music is a band called Daniel Amos. In 1988, they formed an anonymous spinoff called The Swirling Eddies. Some of their more interesting song titles include “Coco the talking guitar,” “Arthur Fhardy’s yodeling party,” “Outdoor Elvis,” and maybe my all-time favorite song title, “Hide the beer, the pastor’s here!”

In the midst of their playful satire and comedy, one song has stuck with me for decades. It’s entitled, “Yer’ Little Gawd.”

i don't want to speak to yer little gawd  i don't want to drink to yer little gawd  interface or link with yer little gawd 

How big is your God?

We’re in the middle of a series called Mark: The Real Jesus. We’re looking at his life from the gospel—good news—of Mark. Perhaps the pivotal question in the entire book was when Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” in the previous chapter.

Today’s text is packed with startling stories that bring clarity to the question of whether Jesus is fully God or fully human. The answer is yes! And he’s great!

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. (Mark 9:2-4)

This must’ve been an incredible sight…and sound! Can you imagine the conversation? Elijah represented the prophets and Moses the law. Both are fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. A masquerade is an outward change that does not come from within, while transfigured describes an outward change that comes from within.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Mark 9:5)

Peter’s mouth is always getting him in trouble! I love John Mark’s commentary that follows in parenthesis.

(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) (Mark 9:5-6)

Has that ever happened to you? When is the last time you were speechless…or should’ve been speechless and you couldn’t stop talking?!

Some people question whether the Bible is authentic or a bunch of fairy tales. If you were to write fiction, you wouldn’t include accounts such as Peter’s clumsy suggestions! I’m sure Peter was embarrassed about many of the things written about him, but they only show God’s amazing power to redeem and restore blemished masterpieces for His glory.

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7)

What is the most astonishing thing about this encounter? Everything! This is multi-media extravaganza! God the Father identifies Jesus once again (Mark 1:11) as His Son. The command to the three disciples is simple: listen to him!

This is a timeless message. We need to listen to Jesus. We need to obey his commands, his teachings, the “red letters” in many Bibles. We are to follow his example of loving even our enemies. We are to re-present Jesus to the world, bearing witness to the reality of God and His Kingdom, praying for it to become a reality here on earth as it is in heaven.

Family, I know we all long to be physically together again soon, but First Alliance Church is not a building or even a gathering. We are not in the business of distributing religious goods and services. Our mission is to restore God’s masterpieces. It’s to make disciples. It’s to become like Jesus and help others become like Jesus…something which is best done in small groups rather than large gatherings. Although much of Jesus’ ministry occurred with twelve disciples—a group larger than the ten we are encouraged to stay within at this present moment—his deepest work was done in the lives of these three men—Peter, James and John. Jesus did not lead a megachurch. There’s actually few references to him teaching in the synagogues. He did attract crowds—largely due to the hope of healings. But discipleship seems to happen best in smaller groups that do life together.

I’m grateful for all of our small group leaders who disciple others through Zoom, in-person socially-distanced gatherings, and one-on-one interactions. We are to listen to Jesus. We are to follow Jesus. That’s what First Alliance Church is all about, and it’s what the Father has commanded us to do…
we must listen to and obey Jesus.

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. (Mark 9:8)

The show’s over! It’s time to go home. I’m so glad there were three witnesses because I’m sure a solo observer would’ve thought they were hallucinating!

It’s worth noting nobody saw Elijah or Moses die. Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind and Moses died alone, buried by God Himself according to Deuteronomy 34:5-6.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. (Mark 9:9-10).

Here’s another example of Jesus predicting his death and resurrection…yet they still didn’t catch on.

And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” (Mark 9:11)

They’re talking about prophecy and the future. Elijah and Moses prepared the way for Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.” (Mark 9:12-13)

Jesus tells them again that He’s the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man, and that he will die. Now the scene comes to a close and a new one begins.

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. (Mark 9:14-15)

“What are you arguing with them about?” he asked. (Mark 9:16)

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” (Mark 9:17-18)

When is the last time you saw someone possessed by a spirit? Have you ever seen someone foaming at the mouth and gnashing their teeth?

I’ve long been fascinated by the role of the supernatural here in the west versus spirituality in other countries. I once spoke with a man who travels all over the world. He said in some parts of the planet, both demons and healings are common. The spiritual world is understood. However, he said he sees fewer demons and healings in the United States. I can’t fully explain why this may be, but I think it has something to do with our love for logic, facts, reasoning, and science which can remove the mystical, the mysterious, and the supernatural.

Are demons real? Absolutely!
Are angels real? Absolutely!
Does God still heal today? Absolutely, though sometimes God often uses doctors and medicine. But sometimes He shows up and confounds the experts with the miraculous.

Jesus often exorcised demons, offering liberation for the oppressed.

This text makes is clear there are different degrees of demons. The disciples had driven out demons before, but they were unable to drive out this one. Was it their lack of faith?

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (Mark 9:19)

Jesus is so real! He’s so emotionally healthy, able to express his frustration without sinning.

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. (Mark 9:20)

There is power in the presence of Jesus. There is power in the name of Jesus!

Jesus asked the boy’s father,
“How long has he been like this?” (Mark 9:21)

“From childhood,” he answered.

“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:22)

Spiritual warfare is real. We have a real enemy that wants to steal, kill, and destroy. In this case, a demon repeatedly tried to kill this boy. I don’t understand all of the factors that lead to murder, self-harm, suicide, or domestic violence, but they are not from God. There are signs of the enemy all over our communities, making our job of demonstrating faith, hope, and love so vital.

To be clear, I’m not blaming every bad thing on satan—and mental illness is real—but sin leads to death, while God is the author of life, the source of every good and perfect gift, the healer and lilberator.

“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

I love Jesus’ response: if you can? The father’s hesitation is understandable. After all, the disciples couldn’t help. Loving parents will do virtually anything to help their children. One of the reasons we love our mothers is their devotion, their commitment, their desire to care and seek healing for their offspring. This father had a similar passion, yet he was surely disappointed at the failure of the disciples.

This verse contains the key sentence in our scripture for today.
Everything is possible for one who believes. I looked up the original Greek word for everything. The word is pas and it means…everything, whole, whatsoever, thoroughly, all. This declaration by Jesus echoes his words in Matthew 19:26…With God, all things are possible.

Did you know Ohio is the only state in the USA with a biblical motto? This is it: with God, all things are possible.

“Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23b)

We love, worship, serve, obey, and love the God of the impossible.

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

There it is, one of my favorite prayers in the Bible!

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit.
“You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” (Mark 9:25)

Jesus didn’t want to create a scene, perhaps for both his sake and these two men.

I love Jesus’ command to not only leave, but to never return!

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. (Mark 9:26-27)

Peter, James and John had seen everything now! First, the transfiguration of Jesus with Elijah and Moses in a supernatural moment of glory, and now a manifestation of supernatural evil. If they thought they were hallucinating before…

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (Mark 9:28)

He replied,
“This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9:29)

Wait! Does it ever say Jesus prayed? There’s no mention of him closing his eyes and talking to the Father. He doesn’t spit on the boy as he did with one of his earlier healings. He simply speaks with authority…an authority that comes through his ongoing relationship with the Father, praying without ceasing, not only praying to the Father or talking with the Father but doing life with the Father.

Jesus never says the disciples don’t have enough faith. He doesn’t say miracles are reserved for the Messiah. He has received the power and the authority to cast out demons from the Father, through prayer.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is known as the Great Commission where Jesus tells his followers to go and make disciples of all nations. We often forget how it begins.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18)

Jesus was given all authority…and he passed it on to his followers. Our text for today concludes…

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:30-32)

Again, he plainly tells them he will die and rise, but they were clueless.

So What?

How big is your God? Is He the sky fairy, a good luck charm, a comfort piece like a stuffed animal?

Is he the big guy upstairs who punched your ticket so you can go to heaven when you die?

Or is Jesus LORD, Messiah, King of Kings, all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present?

Family, our God is the God of the impossible. He’s the one who raises the dead, heals the sick, mends the broken, frees the oppressed, and offers hope to the hopeless. He has conquered sin, death, demons, and satan. He loves you with an everlasting love.

This isn’t positive thinking or psychobabble! Our God is awesome! He is powerful! Paul declared to a church in modern-day Turkey,

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

He can do what we ask.
He can do what we imagine.
He can do more than we ask or imagine.
He can do more than all we ask or imagine.
He can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!
He is the God of the impossible!

Sometimes He says, “Wait.”
Sometimes He says, “No.”
Sometimes nothing happens because we simply don’t ask! Jesus’ half-brother once wrote,

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 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. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)

We must ask. We must pray. We must follow Jesus every day, not just Sunday morning. And then we must thank and praise Him for His faithfulness and goodness.

Last Thursday was the National Day of Prayer. I participated in several online events. Perhaps there’s never been a better time in our lifetime to bow our heads and kneel before Almighty God and pray…for the impossible!

How big is your God?

When we seek first His Kingdom, His will, His plan, we can ask the God of the impossible and expect great things…because He is a great and awesome God!

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

You can watch this online worship experience

Bread & Signs, 19 April 2020

Bread and Signs
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 8:1-21

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

Big Idea: We must never forget God’s abilities…or evil’s capabilities.

Many years ago, I saw a television special featuring comedian Bill Engvall. His debut comedy album was entitled, “Here’s Your Sign.” This is what Wikipedia says about it:

The title of this album refers to a routine framework commonly used by Engvall, which began with his stating that stupid people should have to wear warning signs that simply state "I'm stupid" so that no one will rely on them or ask them anything. He would then go on to tell several anecdotes in which someone asks an (obviously) asinine question, and the question is then answered sarcastically, followed by the statement: "Here's your sign!" For example, a trucker gets his truck stuck under an overpass, and the responding policeman asks "Hey, you get your truck stuck?" The trucker answers, "No sir, I was delivering that overpass and I ran out of gas. Here's your sign!"

Here are some other examples I found online:

It’s like before my wife and I moved. Our house was full of boxes and there was a U-Haul truck in our driveway. My neighbor comes over and says, “Hey, you moving?” “Nope. We just pack our stuff up once or twice a week to see how many boxes it takes. Here’s your sign.”
A couple of months ago I went fishing with a buddy of mine, we pulled his boat into the dock, I lifted up this big ol’ stringer of bass and this idiot on the dock goes, “Hey, y’all catch all them fish?” “Nope. Talked ’em into giving up. Here’s your sign.”
Last time I had a flat tire, I pulled my truck into one of those side-of-the-road gas stations. The attendant walks out, looks at my truck, looks at me, and I SWEAR he said, “Tire go flat?” I couldn’t resist. I said, “Nope. I was driving around and those other three just swelled right up on me. Here’s your sign.”
It may seem odd to follow Resurrection Sunday with a study of the life of Jesus before Holy Week, but we’ve been looking at Mark’s gospel—or good news—of Jesus for literally years now—with many breaks—and we’re going to pick up where we left off…at Mark chapter 8. Here we will see Jesus encounter two groups of people, one receiving a sign and another seeking one.

Today we’re looking at signs…from heaven.

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” (Mark 8:1-3)

Two weeks ago, the drama team of H2—Heather and Hank—had a discussion about Jesus feeding 5000 or 4000 people. He did both! In Mark chapter six, Jesus feeds a crowd of five thousand men—plus women and children—with one boy’s lunch after a long day of teaching. Here, Jesus must be doing a three-day conference! The people are hungry, and Jesus wants to feed them. He’s a gracious host! He’s compassionate.

His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” (Mark 8:4)

Jesus fed a huge crowd two chapters earlier with a boy’s lunch! Hello? Did we already forget God’s power? Who’s in charge here?

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied. (Mark 8:5)

I wonder if the light bulb went on. When did they realize the table was set for another miracle, another sign from God, another moment of heaven kissing earth?

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. (Mark 8:6-7)

I love how Jesus involves the disciples. He’s the greatest leader in history! His investment in eleven ragamuffins in just three years changed the world!

I love his process. If you are a leader or parent or teacher, here’s the best way to transfer knowledge, to “pass the baton.”

I do. You watch.
I do. You help.
You do. I watch.
You do. Someone else watches and I celebrate.

Mike Breen of 3DM, creator of LifeShapes, describes the discipleship square like this:

Where are they at in this story? Step 2. Jesus is doing and they help. Can you imagine helping Jesus?!

The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha. (Mark 8:8 -10)

Much could be said about the numbers in this story. Just like standing “six feet away” means more to us than some random distance, the number seven—fish and basketfuls of leftovers—would have had special significance to both the participants in and readers of this account. The number seven is one of the most important numbers in the Bible, as is twelve from the feeding of the 5000. Some have said the twelve baskets represented the twelve tribes of Israel while the seven represents the Gentile world of 70 nations.

Jesus feeds four thousand people who ate and were satisfied. I’m quite sure many saw this miracle as a sign that the long-awaited Messiah was in their presence, though some may have been unaware of the miracle, the sign, the wonder that occurred in their midst. The crowd received three days of transformational teaching from the Messiah…and got a free meal, too!

Just for fun, here’s a comparison of the two feeding miracles.

Mark 6:35-44

Mark 8:1-9

One day
Three days
Food concerns was money
Food concern was remote location
Five loaves, two fish
Seven loaves, a few fish
Twelve small wicker lunch baskets left
Seven large hampers of food left
“You give them something to eat.”
“How many loaves do you have?”
Sit on the green grass
Sit on the ground

Jesus and his disciples leave the scene of this miraculous feeding and head in a boat to Dalmanutha (nobody is exactly sure where this is located along the Sea of Galilee).

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. (Mark 8:11:13)

That was a short scene! Jesus gives thousands of people a clear sign of his deity and then the religious folk test him. I love the NIV translation in verse twelve: he sighed deeply. The Pharisees are demanding Jesus to prove he is God, yet they are clueless. Jesus won’t play their games. If they can’t figure it out on their own, he’s not about to waste his time and energy pandering to his critics. He doesn’t give them another sign (the Greek word
semeion means miracle, sign, token, or wonder). Faith does not ask for signs, much less demand them.

Some people today say they’d believe in God if they could see Him. I doubt it. Jesus spent three years performing miracles and while some believed, others didn’t. While some followed, others had him killed.

It sounds good to say you only believe in science, but what is science? It’s ever-changing. What do we know absolutely about COVID-19? The data seems to be evolving, the questions growing.

I’m not against science. I’m grateful for it. There are some things we know with a high degree of certainty, like if I drop a bowling ball above my shoe, I will likely experience pain as gravity moves the ball toward my foot. Or if I run over my wife’s foot with her car…

But some people use science as a justification for their unbelief, their rejection of God. Let’s face it, we all know facts intellectually which we reject practically.

We know Twinkies and Mountain Dew and smoking and drugs can damage our bodies. We know flossing our teeth will reduce cavities. We know rest is important. We know we shouldn’t hoard toilet paper! See, data is not enough. Signs or miracles aren’t enough, either. Faith does not ask for signs. It seeks truth.

Please understand, I’m not talking about blind faith. I’m not talking about a leap of faith. I’m simply saying if you look at the evidence, you’ll discover as many former atheists have that the Bible checks out, the resurrection is a reality, and the real question is will we respond in obedience or rebellion to God.

If you have sincere questions, please ask them. Send me an e-mail. Call our office. We’re here to serve you and help you on your journey. But if your arms are folded and you just want to make demands of God, don’t be surprised if He’s quiet.

The ultimate sign—the ultimate miracle—was Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (Acts 2:22-26; 3:12-26) and that wasn’t enough for many (see also Luke 16:22-31).

For followers of Jesus, we are to remember God’s provision. He taught us to pray for daily bread (echoing Proverbs 30:8). He can not only provide for us, He loves to involve us in the process, whether it’s getting a job so we can feed our families or blessing us with resources to share with others. Jesus could’ve had food fall from the sky (that happened before!), but he allowed the disciples to participate, and he invites us to participate, too. This is why, for example, we have a Benevolence Fund to take care of family members in need.

By the way, sometimes people paint Jesus as this weak, soft, pushover. He was not! He was kind and compassionate—especially to the weak, poor, and hurting—but he did get angry (in the temple with the money changers, for example). He wasn’t afraid to speak the truth, call out hypocrisy, or confront sin…in love.

Now the thirteen men get back in the boat for a ride across the sea, but there’s a problem.

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. (Mark 8:14)

Here we go again! They’re short on bread. They left seven basketfuls back at the shore. What will they do? Will they starve? Hardly! Jesus ignores their hunger and utilizes the bread as an object lesson.

“Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” (Mark 8:15)

Jesus rarely said, “Beware” or “be careful,” but when he did, he meant it.

Examples of leaven or yeast include false doctrine (Galatians 5:1-9), hypocrisy (Luke 12:1), and unaddressed sin (1 Corinthians 5). Of course, the Pharisees were guilty of hypocrisy, while the Herodians followed Herod and his vision for the Jews. They both asked for signs (Luke 23:8).

For Jesus, this is a teachable moment. Bread was on their minds, and he used it as a metaphor. Leaven or yeast was forbidden at certain times in the Jewish festivals, not because it was unhealthy, but because of symbolism related to the Exodus.

We are to remember God’s purity. His Word is true. His ways are perfect. Be careful of false doctrine, hypocrisy, and unaddressed sin, church. Beware of pride, self-righteousness, and the things of this world.

Jesus is teaching the disciples to be avoid sin, and all they can think about is their bread shortage.

They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
(Mark 8:16)

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them:
“Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.
(Mark 8:17-19)

“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls eof pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”
(Mark 8:20)

He said to them,
“Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:21)

Mark had written after the feeding of the 5000, the disciples

…had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:52).

That’s the key…the heart. The disciples watch Jesus perform miracles right before their eyes, but they were clueless and filled with unbelief.

The disciples were almost as blind as the Pharisees…with dull minds, hard hearts, and deaf ears (Mark 4:11-12). Ironically, Jesus will heal the blind (8:22-26) and the deaf (8:32-35) later in this chapter.

We are to remember God’s promises. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has assured us of his forgiveness. He proved His love during Holy Week. So many of our problems arise from failing to know and claim His promises, instead living in fear and plagued by anxiety. You want a sign? The Bible is packed with them!

So What?

Every day we make choices, to trust God or ignore Him. To follow God or abandon Him. To live by faith or be consumed by fear. To remember His promises or forget His faithfulness.

He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:21)

I’m sure God asks me this question all the time.

“Kirk, I’ve proven myself over and over, yet you worry.”
“I’ve provided again and again, yet you’re anxious.”
“I’ve taken care of you throughout your life, yet you wonder if I can handle your concern.”

That’s why I pray, “LORD, I believe. Help me in my unbelief (Mark 9:24).”

In our text today, Jesus provided a sign from heaven, a miracle, a bounty of bread. One writer—J. Vernon McGee—noted, “When God is in it, you will notice, there is always a surplus.” God provided.

We also saw unbelieving people demanding a sign, religious people with no interest in a relationship with God, obedience, and surrender. God is perfect, holy, and pure.

Finally, we see the clueless disciples who can’t understand the history unfolding right in front of them, forgetting God’s goodness and bounty. He always keeps His promises.

In a word, remember. Why? We easily forget!

Psalm 103 says,

1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)

We are to remember God’s provision.
We are to remember God’s purity.
We are to remember God’s promises.

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

You can watch this online worship experience

Water: Boat & Walking, 26 May 2019

Water: Boat & Walking
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 6:45-56

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

Big Idea:
Without Jesus, we will struggle in life’s storms.

For about two thousand years, people have been telling stories about Jesus. He lived. He taught. He died. He rose again. He started the greatest movement in human history. He cast out demons. He raised the dead. He healed the sick. And someday soon He will return!

My name is Kirk and today we’re continuing our series, Mark: The Real Jesus. We’re seeking to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”

More than 4 billion people in the world “believe in Jesus,” but what do they believe? Since that number includes Muslims, what do the 2.4 billion Christians believe about Jesus? What does John Mark tell us, the biographer who likely wrote this book with the help of Peter, one of Jesus’ three best friends?

In the sixth chapter of Mark, we’ve seen Jesus rejected in his hometown, sending out his twelve disciples two by two to do ministry, thought to be the resurrected John the Baptist, seeking quiet and rest, and feeding five thousand families with one boy’s lunch. No wonder he became famous without media, social or even traditional media!

Today’s account is a popular story of Jesus performing a dramatic miracle that left his best friends amazed. I hope it leaves us amazed, too.

What is Jesus’ greatest miracle? I believe it was the resurrection! Other than the resurrection, what do you think was Jesus’ greatest miracle?

To set the scene, Jesus sent out the disciples in verse 7. They return with great stories of miraculous ministry in verse 30. The crowds were following them so in verse 31 Jesus tells them to spend some quiet time with him to get away from the people and get some rest. “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (verse 32).

We all need solitude and rest. [riff on last weekend and the Life on Life retreats, Martha/Mary]

However, the solitary place was anything but. By the time they arrived, the crowds had run ahead of them, leading Jesus to spend time feeding their minds, bodies, and souls. After everyone was satisfied with their meal, …

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. (Mark 6:45-46)

They’ve all eaten this miraculous meal of fish and bread, and each of the disciples had a basket of leftovers for their boat ride snack! But where’s Jesus? He leaves the twelve disciples to get alone with the Father in prayer on a mountainside.

Have you ever been on a mountainside? Obviously not in Toledo! Mountains are stunning.

The Sea of Galilee has 33 miles of shoreline. It is 13 miles at its longest length.

The hills around the Sea of Galilee reach nearly 1400 feet above sea level, which is just shy of the highest point in Ohio (Campbell Hill in Bellefontaine, 1550 feet).

Jesus is not looking out as if he were at the top of the Rocky or Appalachian Mountains, but he has a nice view of the Sea of Galilee, no doubt, a beautiful place to hide from the crowds and pray.

Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. (Mark 6:47)

Sometimes I wish Mark gave us more details, but then again his biography is the shortest and most succinct of the four gospels, a word which means “good news.” It was night, the twelve are in a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus is alone on land.

He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. (Mark 6:48a)

If you’ve ever been in a boat during a storm, it can be frightening. Some of us get frightened when we’re in a car during a storm…or even a house! On the water, lightning can be dangerous, the wind can make navigation challenging, water can fill the boat, causing it to sink, its getting dark (and that means “dark” since the clouds are blocking the moon and stars and there’s no electricity, even on shore), …it’s a scary place to be!

Without Jesus, we will struggle in life’s storms.

Storms are difficult enough with Jesus, but the struggle is even greater alone.

Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. (Mark 6:48b-50a)

First, it says it’s shortly before dawn, so by this time it’s very dark. Mark nonchalantly says Jesus goes out to them, walking on the lake. No, the lake was not frozen (if it was, the boat couldn’t sail…and the temperature rarely drops below 46 degrees…and that’s in January). This is what we call a miracle, a supernatural event. Jesus is walking on the lake, the Sea of Galilee (the terms are used interchangeably).

Have you ever walked on water? I actually have several times…with some help. OK, technically I wasn’t walking. I was water skiing! I love to water ski. I remember the first time I was ever able to get up and I looked at the water below me and thought of this passage of the Bible. “Look, I’m walking on water!”

On a side note, during my visit to Israel in 2006, I saw someone water skiing on the Sea of Galilee and had a rare burst of envy! If I ever go back to Israel, I
have to water ski on that lake! I need to put that on my bucket list!

The disciples are trying to stay alive in this brutal storm, Jesus happens to be walking out to them, he’s about to pass them by (!), they see him, think he’s a ghost, and cry like little children, terrified!

Remember, it’s dark. It’s stormy. And how often have you seen someone walking on water?

Jesus is with us in the storms, even if we don’t recognize him.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:50b-52)

Jesus’ best friends didn’t understand the miracle meal. They couldn’t believe the walking miracle. Now he climbs in the boat and they experience another miracle, the storm ending. Of course they were completely amazed, yet their hearts were hardened, it says.

Jesus saw them struggling. You might be struggling right now. Jesus sees you. He knows your struggle.

Is Jesus in your boat?

You might be afraid of him, of letting him into your boat, into your life. We all love control, and letting go is so hard. Handing over the keys to Jesus seems like such a big risk. What will happen if I surrender? Take a step of faith and find out!

I love how human the disciples appear to be in the Bible. They were not created by Marvel! Like each of us, they were filled with fear. They were clueless, at times. They were anxious and worried.

Everything changed when Jesus was in their boat, when they recognized him.

I’m sure Jesus could’ve calmed the storm from the mountainside when he saw their struggle, but he chose to be present, instead. Obviously he is not physically present in our lives like he was with the twelve, but he is with us. Before he ascended into heaven—this Thursday is Ascension Day—he said,

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)

In many ways, we actually have it better than the disciples. Jesus told them,

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

That Advocate is the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew name for the Spirit is “ruach.” It means spirit, breath, or, interestingly, wind. The Holy Spirit lives inside every follower of Jesus. This (sanctuary) is not God’s house. This (my body) is God’s house, the place where the Holy Spirit dwells, producing gifts and fruit in our lives. The Greek word used in John 16,
parakletos, means advocate, counselor, and comforter.

I’m quite sure many of you could use a comforter in your life, a counselor, the Spirit of God. But first we must surrender. We must allow God into our boat. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit—daily, hourly, continually—like breathing. It’s not a once-and-done decision, but a moment-by-moment action.

By the way, having God in your boat doesn’t mean the end of storms and trials, but it does mean you’ll never be alone. As one song says, “Sometimes He calms the storm/ Sometimes He calms His child.”

The chapter concludes…

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:53-56)

We can’t imagine how many sick people Jesus healed. I’m sure it was thrilling for not only those receiving the healing, but also for the countless witnesses, seeing miracles before their very eyes.

God’s not done doing miracles. We’ve seen people in our First Alliance family healed physically. We’ve seen broken marriages restored. We’ve seen God answer prayers for jobs, relationships, and mental illness. Each Sunday we invite any and all to receive prayer at the conclusion of our worship gatherings, following the instructions of scripture to have the elders anoint the sick with oil.


What is Jesus’ greatest miracle? I believe it was the resurrection! Other than the resurrection, I believe the greatest miracle is not physical, but spiritual. When a selfish sinner surrenders their life to Jesus, that’s amazing! Letting go and letting God is so simple, yet so challenging. We want to be in control. Our pride wants to rule. But when we welcome God into our boat, the real transformation begins.

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

Feeding: Loaves & Fish, 12 May 2019

Feeding: Loaves & Fish
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 6:30-44

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

Big Idea:
God is able to do amazing things in and through our lives if we truly surrender.

Spoiler alert. There are few word couplets that seize our attention more than someone about to reveal the ending to a movie or a sporting match. Humans love suspense, and anyone destroying the surprise is likely to be criticized for doing so.

Recently a youth pastor made headlines for spoiling the ending of
Avengers: Endgame in front of his youth group. In a few short weeks, this film has become the number two movie of all-time as it approaches the reigning champion Avatar.

Spoiler alert. If you are at all familiar with the Bible, your knowledge can be a deterrent to fully engaging with its stories. For example, the sorrow of our Good Friday remembrances is always tempered by our understanding of the resurrection. We know what happens next. This is true of most any biblical account.

So today I want you to forget what you know about today’s text, assuming you know anything at all. Pretend you are a follower of Jesus and you have no clue about the following events which are recorded in all four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. To set the scene, earlier in Mark chapter six, we’re told of Jesus,

Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. (Mark 6:7)

He sent them on a mission trip!

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:8-11)

They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. (Mark 6:12-13)

As we continue our series Mark: The Real Jesus, we’re seeking to know about and ultimately know King Jesus, the Messiah. Last week we saw Herod’s confusion about his identity as people thought perhaps Jesus was a resurrected Elijah or John the Baptist. Who is Jesus?

Jesus sent out his dozen followers two by two, gave them supernatural authority, told them to trust God for their provisions (take only a staff), and God did amazing things in and through their lives, including exorcising demons and healing the sick as they preached repentance.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. (Mark 6:30)

I wish this on YouTube! Can you imagine their excitement?

“Jesus, you’ll never believe what happened!”

Jesus: “Try me!”

We begin every staff and elders meeting at First Alliance with “wins,” sharing stories of what God has done in and through us.

We need to celebrate God’s goodness.

I’m not very good at celebrating. I find it easy to start my prayers with wants and needs rather than praise and thanksgiving.

My mind is usually on the next thing to accomplish instead of pausing to celebrate the goodness of the past.

Earlier you heard about the upcoming events and opportunities on the church calendar, but what about last week?

Many years ago I was reading John Ortberg’s book
The Life You’ve Always Wanted. It’s about spiritual disciples, also known as spiritual habits or practices. I knew the importance of prayer and Bible study. I was a little uneasy about the thought of fasting or silence or solitude, thinking they were like eating your veggies—good for you but unpleasant (I hope to do a series on these practices sometime soon; they are truly wonderful pathways to God). I was really surprised when early in the book Ortberg talked about The Practice of Celebration.

(Some of us could use a bit more celebration!)

(The book is excellent, by the way, and I recommend it.)

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. (Mark 6:30)

I’m sure there was some celebration in their midst.

I want to pause and celebrate God’s goodness at the sneak preview of
Dinner Church last Sunday. Many of you served in beautiful ways—inviting, prayer, food prep, greeting—and God used our efforts to do amazing things. We had people from several continents exposed to the gospel, kids riveted to the message, adults engaging in unique ways, friendships forming, and an energy which could only be the Holy Spirit. I believe…

God is able to do amazing things in and through our lives if we truly surrender.

Thank you, family, for surrendering your time, talents, treasures, and energy last week. We’ll do it again on the last Sunday of each month, beginning May 26, and I can only imagine what God will do.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

Vance Havner said, “If you don’t come apart and rest, you will come apart.”

Because God is at work, we can—and must—rest.

Are you rested this morning? Our culture can drive us insane—literally—with its non-stop, 24/7, on-demand, bigger is better, climb the ladder of success mentality. We were not created to work seven days a week. We do not have the capability of doing great work 12 or 15 hours a day. Science has proven this repeatedly. We need rest.

If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, you must rest. You must be with Jesus in a quiet place. You must be still and know that He is God.

I’m preaching to myself here, family. I don’t do this well, but I think I’m making some progress.

We need to rest daily…time with God.
We need to rest weekly…a Sabbath.
We need to rest annually…vacations and staycations.

We are human beings, not human doings.

Pastors are one of the greatest culprits of workaholism. Many of us have this strange notion that if we’re not taking care of every need of every person in the local church, the world is going to end. I’ve seen insecure, co-dependent pastors run themselves ragged and, sometimes, destroying themselves and/or their families in the process. I know God doesn’t need me to accomplish His plans. I feel very privileged to have been invited to serve in His Kingdom—as all of you have been—but He doesn’t need me.

Today’s text has echoes of Psalm 23, the Good Shepherd. It begins,

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalms 23:1-3)

There’s nothing there about busyness, demands, schedules, or achievement. Ultimately, we were created for relationships—with God and others. I’m afraid many cultures understand this better than USAmericans.

We need rest. Life is a marathon, friends, not a sprint. You can only make it to the finish line with rest. When is the last time you were led by the Good Shepherd to quiet waters and refreshing rest?

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 6:32)

This is a beautiful, tranquil lake in Israel, known today as the Sea of Galilee. I’ve been there in a boat and I’m sure the twelve were looking forward to some quality time with Jesus.

But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:33-34)

Jesus—the Good Shepherd—can’t avoid the paparazzi! The problem with being in a boat on a lake is people on the shore can see you…and where you’re headed! Jesus invites his disciples to get rest and then turns around and starts teaching the crowds. I’m sure the twelve were upset. After all, they had all of these great stories to tell! If only Jesus wasn’t so compassionate! Remember, the Good Shepherd is willing to leave the 99 to look for the one lost sheep, or in this case disrupt the solitude of the dozen for the thousands of lost people in the crowd.

Do you see people as greedy or needy? Are people an interruption to your day or the purpose of our mission? Are you compassionate…or just comfortable?

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:35-36)

I’m sure the disciples were hungry, too, but remember they wanted that quiet time with Jesus. Send the people away, Jesus!

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37a)

What? Jesus, we’re hungry, too! This isn’t our problem. Let’s send them away, get back in the boat, catch some fish, and have a nice, quiet dinner together. We’re getting hangry, here!

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” (Mark 6:37b)

I know that would be my answer! I can call Domino’s or Grub Hub, but I don’t know if my credit card limit will cover it!

It’s easy to fault the lack of faith of the disciples, but again, they didn’t know what followed. If we were at the Mud Hens game, they ran out of food, and I told you to feed the crowd, what would you say?

The disciples saw the problem but not the potential.

“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” (Mark 6:38)

[I have some fish. Are there any moms who would like some fish?]

We know from another account of this story (John 6:9) the twelve disciples apparently had no food at all and, therefore, they searched the crowd and found a boy with a small lunch. Imagine being the only person in a crowd with food and someone asks you for it. Would you surrender it or keep it?

What do you have to offer God?

It might be your lunch. Literally. Would you give it to Jesus? He said essentially,

“…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

When we show kindness to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re showing kindness to Jesus. Giving to the benevolence fund is an excellent way to offer your lunch—or your wealth—to Jesus.

What do you have to offer God?

Remember, the boy had no idea what would happen to his lunch, but he surrendered it.

If you knew by putting $100 in the offering today, you’d get an unexpected refund in the mail this week for $500, of course you’d do it. But faith is expressed through obedience without knowing the outcome. I’m not promising you $500, but can you outgive God?

If you knew volunteering your time and talents to help on church work day would result in getting an extra week’s vacation at work the next week, you’d be foolish not to invest those hours.

We don’t know how God will use our offering, but I can almost guarantee there will be no regrets.

Think of it this way: is it generally wiser to invest retirement funds yourself or have someone with thirty years of successful experience do it?

Do you trust God to do more with your time, talent, and treasures than you could ever do on your own?

The exciting things is you might not have much to offer, in the eyes of the world. Some of us are not wealthy. Some of us are not healthy. Some of us aren’t especially attractive or talented or educated, but God can use anything and anyone He chooses to accomplish His will and plans…if we’re available.

What could Jesus possibly do with a little bread and fish? Shhh. No spoilers, please!

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. (Mark 6:39-41)

There are so many layers of symbolism in these verses.

- Moses wasn’t sure how to feed all of the people in the wilderness
- Green grass: the Good Shepherd (green pastures; it is springtime in Galilee)
- Groups of hundreds and fifties: Jethro telling Moses how to delegate (Ex. 18)
- Looking up to heaven, giving thanks, breaking bread: Passover

Jesus was demonstrating signs the new creation, the kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God. Here we see God’s love and power blended together.

They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. (Mark 6:42-44)

We have no idea how many women and children were fed, too, but Michael Card makes an interesting observation, saying, “In every account of the feeding of the five thousand, the word used is kofinos. It indicates a small lunch-pail-sized basket.” It’s likely the crowd didn’t even realize the miracle that occurred right before their very eyes, a miracle more of perfect provision than overflowing abundance. They had enough…their daily bread (and a little midnight snack for each of the twelve disciples).

God is able to provide for our daily bread as we seek Him and surrender what we’ve been given to Him.

Sure, Jesus could’ve had manna and quail fall from the sky to feed the crowd. God did this to the people of Israel in the wilderness, feeding them for forty years!
Jesus could’ve taken stones and turned them into bread as satan had tempted him to do in the wilderness when Jesus was fasting for forty days.

Jesus could’ve prayed a hunger prayer which instantly removed hunger from the crowd.

Instead, Jesus wanted participation. He allowed a boy to be involved. He engaged his disciples. Instead of creating something from nothing—as he has done many times before—he chose to work in and through others. I love that!

God is able to do amazing things in and through our lives if we truly surrender.

How do you think that boy felt at the end of the day? Can you imagine the story he told his mom when he got home? What about what he said to his dad he arrived home from work?

It is a thrill to be used by God. But first, we must surrender. God can bless and multiply whatever we give to Him. He used

- an old man named Abraham to become a dad at 100 and father the Jewish nation
- a stutterer named Moses to lead His people for decades in the wilderness
- a prostitute named Rahab was so important she is in Jesus’ genealogy

God often asks us to do the impossible…so He can receive the glory. Forgive without limit? Love our enemies? We are totally dependent upon Him…and that’s a great place to be.

Sometimes we cry out to God and say, “Do something” and God replies, “You give them something to eat. What’s in your hand? I’ve placed you there in Toledo for such a time as this.”

A man once asked God, “Why aren’t you feeding the hungry?”
God replied, “Why aren’t you feeding the hungry?”

I don’t know what God is calling you to surrender today, but I know it’s a thrill to be obedient, to be used by God to impact lives for eternity, to have a front-row seat to watch God at work. Some of you experienced this last Sunday at Dinner Church. Others were blessed by serving at the Rosa Parks Elementary Carnival. Still others were involved in Celebrate Recovery, bringing hope and healing to the hurting. I saw many of you at the TUI After School Klub banquet, celebrating another year of investment in our city’s kids. Next month you’re all invited to participate in Sports & Arts Camp, possibly our biggest event of the year.

God is able to do amazing things in and through our lives if we truly surrender.

What are you doing with your lunch? Hoarding it, or offering it to God?
What are you doing with your wealth? Your time? Your talents? Your life?


“God will you let us see people the way You see people, as masterpieces in need of love and restoration? Let us have compassion like You do. Will you take our time, talents, and treasures and multiply them for Your glory? I believe, LORD, but help me in my unbelief, that I may trust You completely with my heart, soul, mind, and strength. In Jesus’ Name, amen.”

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

Power: Winds & Waves, 20 August 2017

Power: Winds & Waves
Series— Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
Mark 4:35-41

Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!
Big Idea: Jesus has command over all things—natural and supernatural.
As we continue our series on The Real Jesus from the gospel or “good news” of Mark, we’ve seen Jesus’ popularity—and opposition—growing. The crowds love Jesus because he teaches them, heals them, and loves them. The religious people hate him because he’s more popular than they are…and he seems to have a great comeback for all of their questions and criticisms. In a word, they are envious. Mark records several of Jesus’ parables but one lingering question remains…who is Jesus?
As I often say, this may be the most important question for any human to answer. Who is God and who are you? If you ask people today, “Who is Jesus?” you are likely to get a variety of responses: a good teacher, a prophet, a famous figure in history…
In today’s text it’s obvious those closest to Jesus don’t truly realize Jesus is God, Jesus is the Messiah.
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. (Mark 4:35-36)
Why did Jesus cross the lake? To get to the other side, of course! But seriously, the crowds followed him everywhere and he likely wanted a break, among other things. The departure seems sudden. Perhaps Jesus said, “Let’s get out of here…now!” Jesus is fully human. He is tired. He also has confidence in God that allows him to fall asleep.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:37-38)
This body of water is beautiful, surrounded by mountains which make it susceptible to sudden storms. This wasn’t just a common thunderstorm, though, but rather a furious squall.
Have you ever been in boat in a storm? It can be pretty scary.
The most violent storm I’ve ever experienced on water was on a cruise ship. I know, poor me! We were in the Caribbean with my extended family and this huge ship was really rocking. I found it relaxing, but then again I was inside, safe, and immune to any seasickness so I was not terribly worried.
I have, however, been in the middle of some serious turbulence on airplanes. Even though I know the odds of a plane crashing due to weather are almost zero, I still find myself scared sometimes when I feel like I’m on a roller coaster…with no track!
These squalls came suddenly so even veteran fishermen could be surprised by them, and there were at least four seasoned fishermen in the group, which makes this story even more significant. They understood the difference between rough weather and deadly storms.
Jesus is exhausted, sleeping on the cushion that was usually placed under the steersman’s seat. It’s a great image Mark includes in his biography. He must’ve really been tired to sleep through this squall. No cushion could be that comfortable in such conditions!
I find the reaction of the disciples to be startling. They wake up their exhausted leader and ask, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Did they think he would teach his way out of the situation? They probably wanted him to help bail water out of the boat before it sank. They certainly had no idea he would respond as he did.
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (Mark 4:39)
He uses the same words he spoke to silence the demons. The original Greek might best be translated, “Put the muzzle on and keep it on!”
In Jewish thought the ocean represented chaos, the unpredictable place where evil originates. In fact, Genesis 1:2 is commonly translated, “Now the earth was formless and empty” but has also been translated, “The earth was chaos.” Only God had authority over chaos. He seized it and created our beautiful world from it. The disciples likely knew only God could control the sea, the chaos, the storm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
“How can you be such cowards? Don’t you have any faith?”
And then what? For all we know, Jesus went back to sleep!
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41) 
Who is this? Who is Jesus? The answer is obvious: Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Messiah. No magician could do this. It wasn’t the result of a knowledgeable teacher. It certainly wasn’t a coincidence. There is no other explanation: they are in the presence of God!
You may recall Mark began his book with these words:
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, (Mark 1:1)
Jesus did things only God can do. I doubt they thought it at the time, but as they reflected upon this miracle, perhaps Psalm 107:29-30 came to mind:
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. (Psalm 107:29-30)
Note: other examples of God’s dominion over the waters can be found in Job 26:12-14, Nahum 1:34, Psalm 65:5-7; 74:12-14; 89:8-9; 93:4; 104:5-9.
They knew Jesus had power, but they never imagined this type of power could exist.
Yet their faith remained weak.
You would think it would be enough to see demons exorcised.
You would think it would be enough to see the sick healed.
You would think it would be enough to see storms stopped.
People often say, “I would believe in Jesus if I could see him,” but they’re wrong. So many people saw Jesus and witnessed miracles and still dismissed him…or worse.
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41) 
Who is this? Who is Jesus? I’ve met him, friends! The great song, “My Redeemer Lives,” has this wonderful line which says, “I spoke with him this morning.” Yes! I did. You can. Our faith is not built upon rules and checklists but rather upon a person, a living person, Jesus Christ, fully human and fully God. Through the Holy Spirit he is alive and well on this planet, living inside every one of his followers.
Some have ignored the literal nature of this story, finding the miracle too…supernatural! There were, however, many eyewitnesses to this and Jesus’ other miraculous activities. Mark records various details such as “there were other boats with him” (verse 36) which would be unnecessary if he was simply telling a myth or allegory.
So What?
The most common command in the Bible is…fear not. Fear not. Don’t worry. God is sovereign—he is in control of the supernatural world. He’s also in control of the natural world.
I know, if he can control things why doesn’t he wipe out every evil leader, every bad guy, every hater? I can’t say I always understand, other than the simple fact he is in control but gives us freedom. We’re not angels on assignment, but rather people given choice. He allows us to cherish our blessings or waste them away, pursue him or pursue money, sex and power, to be filled with hate or love, to support life or death. We can even choose to be afraid and worry, but Jesus says it’s a waste of time and energy because he has given us power, authority, and his presence. He is with us. The only one we should fear—and ultimately revere—is Him.
What storms are in your life today?
A stormy marriage? Physical health issues? Depression? You’re not alone.
Struggles with addictions to alcohol, porn, or drugs? You’re not alone.
Same-sex attraction and gender struggles, greed, envy, pride? You’re not alone.
Financial chaos? Job challenges? Broken relationships? You’re not alone.
Grief and loss? Uncertainty about the future? Learning disabilities? You’re not alone.
I say you’re not alone for two reasons. First, you’re not alone in this room. There are people here in the midst of every storm I mentioned. This is why we have been given the gift of family, the opportunity to do life together, to weep when one weeps and to rejoice when one rejoices. We weren’t made to do this thing called life alone.
Second, if you are a follower of Jesus, he is with you. The Holy Spirit is living inside of you and you need only to empty yourself, surrender, confess your sins, and welcome the Spirit to take control of your life. Let go and let God. It may not be an instant cure-all, but raising the white flag is the first step toward truly experiencing the presence and power of God in your life.
In Jesus’ famous Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s gospel, he sends out his followers to make disciples. But he doesn’t end there. He concludes by saying
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
He is with us. He can calm the storm. He’s got this…even if his timing may be slower than our timetable.
To quote composer Scott Krippayne, “Sometimes he calms the storm and other times he calms his child.”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (Mark 4:39)
Jesus may need to say to your storm, “Quiet! Be still!”
Jesus may need to say to you, “Quiet! Be still!”
Credits: some ideas from 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.
  • Miracles at Breakfast, John 21:1-14, 24 November 2013

    Big Idea: God will surprise and delight us if we look to Him and follow.


    Have you ever experienced a miracle? Perhaps we should begin with defining a miracle.

    - an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God
    - a very amazing or unusual event, thing or achievement

    The Bible is full of them. Well, our Bible is full of them. Thomas Jefferson literally cut all miracles out of his Bible, unable to acknowledge the presence of our Creator in our world, despite the gift of Emmanuel, God with us, and later the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer.

    Do you believe in miracles?

    As we approach the conclusion of our series on the gospel or good news of John, we have read this compelling biography of Jesus, from His arrival on our planet to His death, resurrection, and two surprising appearances to His disciples in locked rooms. In John chapter 21, He makes a third appearance.

    Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus ), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (1-3)

    Why did Peter go fishing? Wasn’t he supposed to be fishing for men? Perhaps he thinks his ministry future is over since he denied Christ, returning to his former occupation.

    Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (4)

    John may be reminding us of another recent even involving Jesus early in the morning, a time when Mary did not recognize Him in the garden. He’s about 100 yards—or a football field—away. They could not see Him from that distance.

    He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

    “No,” they answered.

    These were experienced fishermen. They knew the sea. They spent all night fishing with no success. They’re even less likely to catch fish in the daytime.

    He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (6)

    They could’ve said, “Jesus, you’re crazy. We are professionals. The fish aren’t biting. What difference does one side of the boat make versus the other? Clearly this is a miracle.

    Have you been frustrated, unable to make progress in an arena of life? Maybe you just can’t land a job, fix a broken relationship, or break an addiction.

    I often find myself stressed about things—money, parenting, preparing a good sermon, a tough decision—only to discover Jesus waiting for me to notice Him, listen and obey. Pride tells me to do it my way, but His ways are far better than mine.

    Much earlier in an account recorded by Luke Jesus gave fishing lessons to His followers and they had an unbelievable catch of fish. Then, Peter begged Jesus to get away from him because he realized he was a sinner unworthy of Christ (Luke 5:1-10). This time he races toward Jesus.

    Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (7)

    Peter had some unfinished business with Jesus which we’ll examine next Sunday. Days earlier he had denied Christ three times and was undoubtedly filled with shame and guilt. Here he impulsively jumps in the water, leaving the others in the boat to work with the fish.

    Note, too, that rather than taking off clothes to swim, he puts them on. Perhaps he was hiding his shame like Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden.

    The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. (8-9)

    Why did John mention the charcoal? Smell is the most sensitive of the senses. Visual recall is about 50% after three months. We can remember smells with 65% accuracy…after a year! Furthermore, 75% of emotions are triggered by smell which is linked to pleasure, emotion and memory. One survey found 85% of participants remembering their childhood when they smelled Crayola crayons.

    Do you think this charcoal fire triggered a memory for Peter? It was around a similar fire that he denied Jesus three times (John 18:18). Again, we’ll address that next Sunday.

    Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. (10-11)

    That’s a lot of fish! Miracles abound, not only in the size of the catch but the strength of the net.

    A first-century fishing boat was recently found by members of Kibbutz Ginosar in Galilee. I saw the boat, 26.5 feet long and 7.5 wide. If it was similar to Peter’s boat, it would be too small for seven men, so it is believed two boats may have been used.

    Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. (12)

    This is an odd verse. They knew it was him but they didn’t ask? N.T. Wright says this only makes sense if Jesus is recognizable yet somehow different. His body was obviously different, no longer subject to death or decay.

    Wright compares it to someone in the sixteenth century seeing someone surf the Internet. They didn’t have electricity, much less computers! Jesus’ risen body is something from the future—our future. It isn’t magic. It’s real, but different.

    God has blessed them with a huge catch of fish.
    He has blessed them with breakfast.
    He has blessed them with His presence.

    Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (13-14)

    God’s cooking breakfast! He didn’t need their fish. He had His own—and bread, too. Loaves and fish. That reminds me of another story!

    Jesus already had fish on the fire because He doesn’t need what we bring, but He wants it!

    While they ate, He was sending a message: I love you.

    So What?

    This story has some unusual moments. The fact that it appears after the previous chapter which seemed to wrap up the entire book is unique. Jesus cooking fish while the disciples fail to catch any and then become inundated with them is interesting, to say the least. What are we to make of it all?

    I think it’s a great reminder that God is alive, He is accomplishing His purposes, and we must always be ready to be surprised by God. At any moment He may ask us to do something crazy, like give away more money than is in our budget, engage in a conversation with someone that makes us uncomfortable, or sacrifice comfort and convenience for making space to serve strangers. We don’t always see God, we don’t always hear His voice, but He is here. He is with us. He lives inside us. How would our lives look differently if we truly pursued God and followed Him. Jesus provided daily bread—and fish—for His friends, and He still provides for us, today. So…

    What is God saying to you? What are you going to do about it?

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

    The Walking Dead, John 11:38-57, 17 March 2013

    Big Idea: Jesus specializes in raising the dead. He is life!


    For reasons unknown to me, zombies are all the rage in our culture today. There are books, films, walks, and even festivals! Have you noticed? There are various definitions of zombies, but for our purposes let’s define them as dead people that come to life. It sounds crazy doesn’t it? It’s clearly the stuff of movies and TV shows like The Night of the Living Dead and The Walking Dead. Some are even preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse! Are you a fan of zombies?

    Perhaps one of the attractions of zombies is that we are afraid of death, but zombies is such a ridiculous notion that we can get creeped out but not truly afraid since we all know zombies are fiction and dead people don’t come back to life…right?

    If you’re easily offended, don’t read the Bible! There are some very disturbing images in the pages of Scripture, including today’s text. The Bible is not Rated G!

    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 mortal in your ears.

    Last Week

    The first part of John 11 describes Jesus being told that His friend, Lazarus, is sick. Instead of healing Him, Jesus hangs out for two days only to learn that He has died. Mary and Martha understandably question Jesus, saying that if only He had gone to their brother, He could’ve been healed and they would’ve been spared the tremendous grief and loss of this deeply-loved man. They said, “If only…” and the challenge last week was whether we love and trust God because of what He does for us or simply for who He is. Is your faith dependent upon answered prayer?

    Jesus’ friend Lazarus is dead. His sisters can’t understand why Jesus didn’t heal him. But the story’s not over!

    Scene Four

    Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

     “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (38-39)

    Jesus is “once more deeply moved,” though the Greek verb mentioned last week is used again here, meaning outraged. Jesus is life, and here He is facing His opponent, death.

    This was a “rolling stone” tomb that could be rolled, like a giant stone wheel.

    We said last week that 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.

    In an early medieval Jewish tradition, Jews would actually go to the cemetery three days after burial to see if the person was living (I wonder how often they were surprised!).

    Martha rightly cautions Jesus about the smell. Dead things stink, especially after four days! John wants us to know that Lazarus was clearly dead.

    Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (40)

    As we have noted so many times previously, God’s timing is never late but rarely early. His glory is far more important than our temporary happiness.

    So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (41-42)

    It is obvious that Jesus has already been praying for Lazarus. It’s not an impulsive request.

    He looked up. This was common posture for Jewish prayer, looking up and likely with hands raised. He prays aloud not to impress, but to allow those around to hear His conversation with the Father. He says, “Father” rather than “our father” to show the intimacy in their relationship. Jesus was constantly following the mission and will of the Father.

    When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

    Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

    Jesus uses an authoritative shout to call Lazarus.

    Dead Man Walking! Here is one of the first zombies in the Bible! I love the phrase, “The dead man came out.” Wow!

    Can you imagine being a character in this story? An eyewitness?

    Dead bodies were considered unclean and untouchable in Jewish law, but Jesus had a reputation for touching the untouchable and most likely gave Lazarus an embrace that some would’ve found offensive.


    There are many biblical stories that I wish were captured on video! This is certainly one of them. What was the reaction of Martha? Mary?

    What was Lazarus’ reaction! What did he think about all of this? Would you want to return to this planet after four days of “sleeping?” I’m sure his sisters were delighted, but I wonder if Lazarus wanted to return! Of course, he did eventually. They say that death and taxes are the only certainties in life. Lazarus was given a second life—bonus time—but he eventually died. As we noted last week, death is merely sleeping for the believer. Jesus offers real, eternal life to those who respond to His invitation. He created us and is able to recreate us, providing freedom from both sin and death.

    I often wonder how anyone can live without Jesus. Death surrounds us. You are one day closer to the grave than you were yesterday! You can be one day closer to eternal life with Jesus, though, which is far greater than anything this life can offer.

    “Death is but a gateway to further life and fellowship with God.” - L. Morris

    One More Thing…

    You might think that anyone who witnessed this scene followed Jesus, but tragically that was not the case.

    Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

    This is Jesus’ last public appearance before His death. His public ministry ends here. Some saw the dead raised but they still didn’t believe. Instead, they tattled on Jesus to the religious leaders who would have Him crucified.

    The problem is not with the evidence but the unbelief of man. Many say they will belief if they see Jesus or a miracle, but many saw dead Lazarus raised from the dead and still refused to believe. Signs alone cannot prompt faith. Experience alone is not enough to persuade the human heart. This is why we need words to accompany our deeds.

    Not only did eyewitnesses not believe in Jesus, this beautiful miracle or resurrection actually led to Jesus’ death!

    Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

    What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

    Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

    He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

    Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

    When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.
    (John 11:47-57)

    So what?

    There are many people today that are zombies. They are the walking dead. They were at one point dead in their sin, yet they have come alive in Jesus Christ. Jesus is life! He is The way, The truth, and The life (John 14:6).

    Sometimes God answers our prayers instantly. Sometimes He takes His time! Hebrews 11 tells us that many of us will live our entire lives seeking to understand God’s responses to our prayers, but Daddy knows best. His timing is perfect. His will and plans never fail. He can be trusted.

    No matter where you find yourself today, no matter what is dead in your life, Jesus is life. He conquered sin and death. He caused the dead to rise. He did so Himself, in case you haven’t heard! We’ll talk about that in two weeks! We worship the God of miracles. He is alive today and wants you to experience life—abundant life (John 10:10), eternal life, supernatural life.

    What is dead in your life that Jesus can resurrect?

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

    Signs, John 4:43-54, 1 July 2012

    Big Idea: Do you want Jesus or just miraculous signs?

    John 4:43-54

      After the two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. (John 4:43-45)

    If we think of Israel as Jesus’ country, the contrast is not between Judea and Galilee, but Samaria (where He was) and the Jewish regions of the country.

    The people had seen what Jesus had done.

      Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
    (John 4:46-47)

    He’s back in Cana, but this time He’s not there to make wine.

    This man was important. He likely worked for Herod Antipas in Galilee. He has a little boy who is likely his firstborn son who carried the heritage of the family.

    Why didn’t he bring his son to Jesus? We don’t know!

    Like the Samaritan woman at the well, he was desperate. He was broken. He had no where else to go. He is begging!

    Desperation is what usually drives people to Jesus. I believe the primary reason why Christianity is dying in the western world is because we aren’t desperate for God. We have air-conditioned homes, cars with satellite radio, world-class hospitals, and iPhones. What else do we need?

    Until that moment comes. The Visa bill. The report card! That word from the doctor. The late-night phone call.

    There are people all around you and me that are in or about to experience a crisis. That’s the time they will be most receptive to the Gospel, the good news of Jesus.

    “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
    The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
    “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” (John 4:48-49)

    The Galileans wanted Jesus to prove Himself with miracles but don’t care about what God is really doing among them.

    “Come down” is an imperative. The official gives Jesus an order.

    “Go” is also an imperative. Jesus follows suit and gives the man an order.

    Notice that Jesus doesn’t go. He is actually absent in the miracle. He is not confined to one place. His power and influence is beyond human imagination and ability.

    The world can see God’s power at face value, but there is a relationship between miracles and life-changing faith.

    Some say that if they could see Jesus, they would believe in Him. This is simply not true. Thousands saw Jesus and saw Him perform miracles. They were impressed, but not impacted by God in their presence. The human heart is prone to selfish action rather than humble obedience.

    Miracles were an important part of Jesus’ ministry and they led many to faith, but He wants more. Anyone can be grateful for a free lunch, but true belief takes things to another level. Jesus wants people to not only believe in His miracles, but in Him.

    The man took Jesus at his word and departed.
    While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”
    (John 4:50-52)

    The man had to exercise his faith. He did so by leaving Jesus.

    Jesus’ word is all that the man needed. After all, it was Jesus’ word that created the universe. Jesus’ word is power. It can be trusted.

    God loves to bless us and intervene in our lives, but He doesn’t want that to be the focus.

    Luke 16:19-31, the rich man and Lazarus; even if a person has every sign, they may not believe.

    The people wanted signs. They wanted to see tricks.

    They did not care about Jesus.
    They did not care about being with Jesus
    They just wanted what they could get from Him.

    They wanted a genie that they could use and put back in the bottle when they were done.

      Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him,
    “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.
      This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.
    (John 4:53-54)

    Just like last week’s story of the Samaritan woman at the well, the result was this character and others believed.

    All this man had was Jesus’ word. He had to act on faith. He had to take a step of faith...not a leap of faith, but a step of obedience.

    What about you? Are you waiting for Jesus to perform a miracle and prove Himself to you? Today as we celebrate communion together, we remember that He did prove Himself. He proved His love. He backed up HIs words with action.

    He also proved Himself by conquering the grave. He performed the greatest miracle ever...the one that not even Harry Houdini has been able to do—resurrect.

    You can listen to the podcast

    Jesus the Winemaker, John 2:1-11, 27 May 2012

    Big Idea: Jesus’ first miracle saves a wedding reception and offers are preview of another salvation

    John 2:1-11


    If you were writing a fictional account of Jesus, you would never choose this to be His first miracle.

    Why did Jesus do this miracle this way for His first one?

    Who He came to be?

    (8-9) The master of the banquet is like the toastmaster or master of ceremonies or the emcee, the hired life of the party. The party is about to crash and Jesus saves it, revealing that He is the real LORD of the feast, the real master.

    He created about 150 gallons of amazing wine to keep the party alive. He comes to be the LORD of the feast. As

    Isaiah 25: in that day..feast...wipe away tears...

    Of all of the things Jesus could show and tell, He came to bring festival joy.

    Why are most people not worshipping God this morning? Many would say they want to enjoy themselves and have fun and Christianity is anything but, right?!

    Jesus is LORD of the feast to make the world run with wine. There are reasons to reject Jesus, but boredom is not one of them!

    What He came to do?

    (4) Woman is not “dear” or “mom” but He is upset. He is harsh and His troubled response shows us He is thinking about something else. He didn’t just change His mind and do the miracle.

    1. If you are single and go to a wedding, you tend to think about your own wedding. You are thinking about the future. If Jesus was thinking about His wedding, it would have stirred Him far deeper than it stirs us.

    The God of the Bible does not want to merely relate to us as king/subjects, shepherd/sheep, or even father/children but husband/wife. He wants to know us, love us, and unite with us. The image is of the bridegroom.

    Matthew: why don’t your disciples fast? bridegroom
    John 3 at end: John the Baptist: the bride is for the bridegroom
    John at end of revelation: then I saw the holy city...bride...husband...wedding feast of the Lamb

    Jesus is thinking about His wedding day. The ultimate union/consummation/embrace will be at the wedding feast of the Lamb

    1. Many singles find wedding troubling because they don’t know if they will ever marry. Jesus knows, though. He’s not only thinking about His wedding but what it will take for Him to provide wine for His wedding feast.

    Jesus literally says “my hour has not yet come.” “Hour” in (John 8:20; 12:23) John means the hour of His death.

    Jesus says, “It’s not my time to die yet.” He is looking into the future at which the present is a parable/pattern. He’s not talking about this wine or this wedding feast (He doesn’t have to die for that) but He realizes the only way for Him to unite with His bride is to die.

    1. ceremonial washing; wash before entering the presence of God; sign of our sins that need to be cleansed

    Moses once turned water into blood as a curse. Egypt died because water became blood.

    Jesus sees wine and thinks of His blood as a blessing.

    Jesus is sipping the coming sorrow because He can’t think about giving the cup of joy without thinking about what He will have to drink.

    If He is going to feast with us, He has to go through the hour.

    “Let this cup pass from me” He said.

    If you don’t understand hell, you don’t understand God’s love.

    Don’t fear the destruction of your body, but the destruction of your body in hell.

    Physical torture is nothing compared to be rejected by God.

    The only way Jesus can get to His wedding day is to go through the hour
    He came to give His water/blood as our wine.

    What does He offer?

    Powerful sensation and complete reception.

    Powerful sensation. Salvation is wine.

    The Bible frequently uses sensory language to describe relationship with God

    Ps 34:8, taste and see
    Ps 119, open my eyes that I might...

    Why does the Bible continually insist on using sensory language? You are not invited to anything less than this, to experience God, to receive a new sensory ability. The Bible pushes you beyond knowing to tasting.

    “There is a difference between believing that God is holy and gracious, and having a new sense on the heart of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. The difference between believing that God is gracious and tasting that God is gracious is as different as having a rational belief that honey is sweet and having the actual sense of its sweetness” - Jonathan Edwards

    You are not invited to sign a list of rules but to a feast.

    The difference of knowing and tasting is like a blind man asking you the difference between red and blue. It is like the difference between a trumpet and an oboe? Not really.

    The wine that Jesus offers creates a hunger for it.

    The first step is a hunger and thirst for it.
    Then you begin to delight. They ravish you. They become sweet.
    They begin to satisfy.

    Jesus offers you wine; a feast.

    Complete reception. Feast in heaven.

    When He says He’s the king/shepherd/father He tells us something about us.

    If you’re the best man or groom, you see the bride coming at you. The only person that sees that repeatedly is us ministers. No matter what that woman looks like in reality, she is ravishing. Bridal style/ornaments/garments will make you ravishing no matter what you look like in reality. As she comes down, the groom is amazed. He’s never seen her look like this before.

    When Jesus says He is the groom, He is saying we are ravishing and He can’t wait!

    To become a Christian,
    1. Admit that you’re out. You are empty.
    2. Let Jesus fill you and get credit for what Jesus has done (the Master ran out of wine and got the credit for good wine)

    a. You can go to Him with little things. Why would Jesus use His power on such a small thing. He used His power to wipe the egg off of the face of teenagers.
    1. b. Submit to His timing. He will tell you to do things that don’t make sense and seem counter-productive. Mary says, “Do whatever He says.” She remembers the angels who told her He was the Messiah.
    2. c. Some of you are disappointed about your marital status, married or single. There has never been a wedding like the marriage between us and Jesus. This relativizes the need for a perfect marriage because the ultimate marriage lies ahead.

    You have power over your joy.

    Jesus’ first miracle was not as a boy, but as a man.

    Moses’ first miracle was turning water into blood.
    Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine.

    Credits: many ideas for this message taken from Dr. Tim Keller.

    You can listen to the podcast here.