Prayer as an Expression of Hope, 5 February 2023

Prayer as an Expression of Hope
40 Days of Prayer

Matthew 6:13b; Mark 13:24-26

Series Big Idea: We are beginning the new year on our knees, joining other Alliance churches for 40 Days of Prayer.
Big Idea: Prayer produces hope as we are reminded of the power and glory of God.
Someone has said humans can go
40 days without food
3 days without water
8 minutes without air
1 second without hope
Author Lewis B. Smedes put it this way:
Hope is to our spirits what oxygen is to our lungs. Lose hope and you die. They may not bury you for a while, but without hope you are dead inside. The only way to face the future is to fly straight into it on the wings of hope…hope is the energy of the soul. Hope is the power of tomorrow.   
Who could use a little more hope?
What exactly is hope? It is a verb. I can say, “I hope the Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl next Sunday.” It is also a noun. We can be full of hope. The Greek word for hope used in the Bible is”elpis,” meaning to anticipate, usually with pleasure; expectation or confidence.
Like faith, the power of hope lies not in the person hoping, but rather the object of hope. I can hope this chair will hold me up, but I have no bearing on whether or not it breaks. That belongs to the chair and its strength.
You can hope for anything…a new car, a perfect spouse, a wonderful job, 80 degrees and sunny! In the business world, it has been said that hope is not a strategy…”I hope we start to make some sales so we don’t go bankrupt.”
Today we finish our 40 Days of Prayer series with our Christian & Missionary Alliance family.
We’ve been looking at the LORD’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray.
We began with prayer as Worship:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
Then prayer as Kingdom Partnership:
thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.  
Prayer as Petition:
Give us this day our daily bread.  
Prayer as Confession:
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those
who trespass against us.  
Prayer as Spiritual Warfare:
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

One of my frustrations about prayer is when people make it about a list instead of a relationship. Jason did a great job a few weeks ago preaching about “give us this day our daily bread.” We
are to ask God for things. He’s a good, good Father who gives good gifts to His children. But a wish list is not a relationship. We were created to know God and be known by Him. Prayer is not just talking to God. It’s not just talking with God. I submit to you that prayer is doing life with God.
Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica,
Never stop praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NLT)

How can we do that?
If I close my eyes and fold my hands while I drive my car…
How can I pray when I’m asleep?
How can I pray when I’m at work focusing on a project?
If prayer is something we do, we must surely stop.
If prayer is something we are, we can never stop praying.

Allow me to explain what I mean. Ever since I married Heather, I have been involved in a marriage. Date nights are a part of marriage. Phone calls and texts are a part of marriage. But I’m still married when I’m asleep. I’m still married when I’m out of town. I’m still married when I’m at the office. Why? Because marriage is about a relationship.
I have a different relationship with the barista at Biggby Coffee. I go there for a transaction…I ask for tea, I pay the barista, and they give me tea. Period.
Tragically, many treat prayer like a barista transaction. God, this is what I want. Give it to me. Now, please. If not, I will be angry, doubt You, or even abandon You.
Prayer is not about a transaction. Prayer is about a relationship, and relationships are not just what we do, but who we are.
It is vital for us to have “dates” with God where we set aside everything and focus on Him. For many, closing the eyes, bowing the head, and folding the hands can aid in that focus. But prayer doesn’t end when we say amen. Our relationship with God continues throughout the day and night.

Never stop praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NLT)
Today’s theme is Prayer as an Expression of Hope:
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Why is this an expression of hope?
God and His Kingdom are forever.
Last week I was driving around my old stomping grounds in Ann Arbor. It’s been about seven and a half years since we moved from Michigan to Toledo, and in less than a decade, so much has changed. New people live in many of the homes in our old neighborhood. Stores I used to frequent have closed. I ate breakfast in a new restaurant in space that used to be a different establishment.
I drove by The Big House—Michigan Stadium—and what used to be a cutting edge, high tech video board has been taken down, most likely to be replaced by an even brighter, higher-definition one.
Everywhere we look, our world is changing. Few people stay at the same company throughout their career. Little people grow up to become big people. The weather is constantly changing. People even change spouses when their marriages fail.
It’s no wonder people are desperate for hope. One pastor recently wrote, “We no longer trust the government, the medical profession, the judicial system, our academic institutions, or our churches.”
But God and His Kingdom are forever! That’s real hope. One of Jesus’ best friends, Peter, wrote,
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3, NIV)
A living hope. Jesus died to give us hope, forgiveness, peace, reconciliation to our heavenly Father, but then rose from the dead. That’s real power! That’s real hope!
When we hope in temporary things, we’ll always be disappointed. They become false hope. Paul said to his apprentice, Timothy…
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17, NIV)
Followers of Jesus view their resources as something to steward, to share, not something to worship. Where is your hope today?
Even in the midst of trials, we can have hope. In fact, it is through trails that we encounter hope. Listen to these words:
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5, NLT)
When is the last time you rejoiced over your problems and trials? It sounds crazy, right, but you can trust God’s Word to be true. None of us enjoy suffering, but suffering shapes us. It develops our character. It makes us stronger.
For the past five weeks or so, Heather has been using crutches due to a broken foot. The crutches are uncomfortable and she is using her arms in ways she’s never done before, but those muscles are getting stronger. In the same way, when we are tested, our character grows. Furthermore, we’re reminded of our weaknesses, how little we can control, and the hope of heaven. The hope of salvation. The hope of eternity with God.
Some of you are struggling right now, and I want to encourage you and tell you two things:
1.    You are seen. God sees you. If you’ve shared with others, they see you. You are loved. You are accepted. You matter. You belong here. You are family. No matter what you’ve done.
    Your story is not over. If you are a follower of Jesus, the best is yet to come. I promise! Here’s a glimpse of what’s ahead:
“At that time, after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. (Mark 13:24-26, NLT)
That’s hope! That’s what we have to look forward to very soon! Be encouraged, family.
This prayer in Romans perfectly describes how I feel about you.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NLT)
Please open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 6. We’re going to look at the end of verse 13.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13b, NKJV)
How many of you see that? How many of you don’t? This is called the doxology, and it’s missing in many Bible translations, though there’s probably a footnote somewhere. Let Dr. Scot McKnight explain:
Readers of most editions of the Bible will find a note that the best and earliest manuscripts do not have the commonly recited doxology at the end of the Lord’s Prayer: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (KJV). Neither does Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:1 – 4 have a doxology. Those words appear to have been formed on the basis of 1 Chronicles 29:11 – 13 by someone later than Jesus and the writing of the gospel of Matthew; the doxology was added to the Lord’s Prayer in public prayer, and then was gradually added to the text of the New Testament itself. We recite them today because the public recitation of the Lord’s Prayer seems incomplete without such an ending.
The Story of God Bible Commentary)
It’s a fitting conclusion to the prayer, reminding us that God is worthy of our praise. He is all-powerful. There is evidence of His Kingdom breaking forth here on earth, but more is to come.
As we pray, we can praise and prepare for eternity.
The next life will be filled with music, praise, and adoration. I don’t expect to play a harp on a cloud, but we will certainly worship Almighty God. When we sing, we prepare. When we look back at Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the miraculous resurrection, we are reminded of who he is and why he is worthy.
Jesus Messiah
All our hope is in you, Jesus, the light of the world!

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

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

The Quest for Power, 28 February 2021

The Quest for Power
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 10:32-45

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

Big Idea: The Kingdom of God is upside-down where the greatest serve.

What comes to mind when you think of power? What is power? Is power good or evil? Yes!

It seems that some want power, some are afraid of power, some need power, …and we all have a certain measure of power, though all of us have limited power.

Andy Crouch has called power “the ability to make something of the world.” I think we all want to make something of the world…and so does God!

Last Sunday we returned to our study of Jesus from the book of Mark. The more we know about Jesus, the more we will know Jesus. He came to earth to create a path not for religion, but relationships. Do you know Jesus? He wants to be known, yet there are so many obstacles that stand in the way, most notably our other gods and idols we discussed last week, such as our love for money, sex, and power.

John Mark, the writer of this gospel or “good news,” tells us

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. (Mark 10:32)

The Passover celebration is near. Jesus is with his disciples and others. He had told them twice already that he would die, though they will seem to be clueless about the prophecies later. He tells them a third time…

“We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mark 10:33-34)   

No wonder there was astonishment and fear. Jesus couldn’t be more clear about what was going the happen, and everything occurred exactly the way he predicted.

I understand there are skeptics who may think Mark simply took historical events and wrote Jesus’ words back into the story. While that may technically be possible, it is impossible for ancient prophets centuries earlier to rewrite the events. One of the greatest proofs of our faith is Jesus and the multiple prophecies he uniquely fulfilled. God knows the future. God is omniscient—all-knowing. The crucifixion was no accident. It was part of God’s plan, even though it didn’t make any sense at the time to the disciples.

This is true in our day, too. Josh Kaiser—pastor of OneHope Church—was telling me last week how one of his goals is to communicate God’s goodness to his congregation and generation.
God is good…all the time. All the time…God is good!

“But how can God be good when I’m going through this…?” I don’t know, but your story is not over. As Tony Campolo famously said, “It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming!”

God is good. God can be trusted. It’s okay if it doesn’t feel like it in this moment. You’ll see! In the meantime, faith fills in the gaps. “I believe, LORD. Help me in my unbelief.”

Now we move to a most interesting conversation.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” (Mark 10:35)   

They want a blank check! Can you imagine?! What audacity! Jesus is willing to play along.

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. (Mark 10:36)   

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
(Mark 10:37)   

Translation: we want the two best seats in heaven, in the next life. To be fair, James and John were two of Jesus’ three best friends, along with Peter. But this is quite the request.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38)   

Jesus knows what lies ahead for himself…death. Following Jesus—being with Jesus—means following him everywhere…including the cross. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people come alive. It’s not all fun and games. You take the good with the bad, the hard with the easy, the suffering with the comfort, the pain with the glory. But whatever price you pay in this life for following Jesus will be rewarded in the next…for eternity!

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them,
“You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, (Mark 10:39)   

Jesus says they will suffer and die…and they did. It’s believed that all of the disciples died as martyrs except John…who was boiled in hot oil. Jesus doesn’t invite us to a life of pleasure and parties. The invitation is come and die…so you can truly live. Any sacrifice for Christ will be worth it…for eternity. James and John died for their faith…

but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” (Mark 10:40)

We don’t know who will sit beside Jesus…or if it really matters.   

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. (Mark 10:41)

Can you blame them? I would be angry, too! Now Jesus seizes this incredible teaching moment.

Jesus called them together and said,
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. (Mark 10:42)

If you thought the lust for political power is a new thing, you haven’t been reading the Bible! Two thousand years ago, people were seeking to rule over others. They had agendas they wanted to implement, power they wanted to exert, and most likely people they wanted to oppress. This is the way of the world…money, sex, and power.

It’s easy to criticize politicians, but don’t you want power, too? Have you ever put someone else down so you could feel better about yourself? Have you ever silently thought you’re glad you're not like
that person? Have you ever felt justified cutting in line or cheating because you felt better than another? Have you ever experienced a feeling of entitlement?

I thought so! Me, too! But Jesus says,

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. (Mark 10:43-44)   

God’s Kingdom is upside down. Jesus turns the tables. In his world, the greatest serve. The first are last. The word “slave” here is not like our nation’s understanding of slave, but rather a bondservant, someone who is working off a debt for a specific time. They often owned property and could obtain freedom.

Jesus always backs up his words with action. He practices what he preaches!

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)   

Here’s Jesus with his disciples on the way to his crucifixion. He has just told them exactly what would happen. He knows his life will be given for theirs, a ransom or payment for their sins…and ours. God became flesh and spent more than three decades serving. God served us! What kind of God would do that? Furthermore, God died for us! Show me any religion with that love, that mercy, that grace!

Only a God like You/could be worthy of my praise/and all my hope and faith

That’s our God! That’s our King!

So What?

In his book Playing God: Redeeming the gift of Power, Andy Crouch writes,

Power is all about image bearing—reflecting and refracting the creative power of the world’s Maker into the very good creation. And image bearing is for flourishing. But as idolatry fills the world with false images, and as those false images proliferate, the image bearers lose their capacity to bear the true image. The more the image bearers lose this capacity, the more creation itself is diminished, reduced to utilitarian means to bitter ends. Idolatry is the true failure of power.

This flows perfectly with last Sunday’s sermon on money. Our hearts are drawn to money, sex, and power…for our benefit. There’s actually nothing inherently wrong with any of them. Money can be used to bless others. Sex is one of God’s most wonderful ideas, a remarkable experience for a husband and wife in bonding and celebration of their relationship, to say nothing of procreation. Power can bring about freedom for the powerless and justice for the weak.

The issue is the heart. Why do you want money? Is it for yourself or others?

Why do you want sex? Is it for your personal pleasure or strengthening your marriage?

Why do you want power? Is it to bless or oppress others?

Andy Crouch adds,

Every Maundy Thursday, the night before Good Friday in the Western liturgical calendar, Christians around the world gather to wash one another’s feet. Two thousand years after the Teacher and Lord knelt with a towel around his waist, his followers, servants and messengers continue to imitate his example. There is no act of culture-making power more extraordinary than creating a ritual, an act that continues to bear witness to truth from generation to generation, long after the first persons who experienced it lay in the dust of death. The persistence down to this day of the act Jesus performed at that table, and the acts from that night that the other Gospels report—taking, blessing, breaking and giving the bread and wine—is the ultimate test and sign of his power. In this moment, Jesus creates culture, forever transforming the meaning of towel, loaf and cup, forever altering the way teachers and masters will see their roles, and the way their students and servants will see them.

Following Jesus means following his example of service, of washing feet, of daily sacrifice, of putting others first, of praying for one’s enemies, of blessing those who curse you. Could anything be more counter-cultural?

I wish I could say Christians model this well, that we never seek power, that we put others above ourselves, that we are content to go last, that we are known as servants.

The great theologian (!) Jimi Hendrix famously said, "When the power of love takes over the love of power, that's when things will change.”

Tony Campolo notes, “A basic sociological principle is you can’t express love and power at the same time. Whenever you love, you lose power. Love makes you vulnerable … We have a God who loves us so much he was willing to become vulnerable.”

I have to admit I’ve been embarrassed by so-called Christians who clamored for power, especially during this past political season, as if either candidate was the Messiah, the Savior, the answer to the world’s problems…and that somehow their guy would give them power.
Washington’s got nothing on the Kingdom of God! I know politics is messy, but our allegiance must never be to a president but to a Priest, the great high Priest, who is also a Prophet, and King, Jesus Christ. His mission wasn’t to seek power for himself. He came with all authority on heaven and earth. He came for the world. In fact, he gave us his power and authority…for the sake of others.

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

What does Jesus do with power? He sends his followers on a mission.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

One final passage from Andy Crouch:

There is no point in this story where Jesus gives up power—instead, it is the culmination and demonstration of his power. What Jesus gives up in this story is not power but privilege and status…

For those of us preoccupied with protecting our privilege and raising our status, this indifference of Jesus is terrifying. It prompts the kind of outburst that came from Peter. It is holy power, utterly purified, without an ounce of self-protection or self-regard. Jesus’ only use of power was to create, never to protect himself or to exalt himself. Perhaps this is the deepest explanation of his nonviolence. Violence, even when used in justifiable self-defense, does nothing to restore, redeem or create. It only damages in return. And Jesus simply never had a thought except to restore, redeem and create a new community among whom power would be used always and only for flourishing. In such a community, privilege and status can only be disdained and discarded. They are distractions from the real calling of image bearers: to be fruitful and multiply, far as the curse is found.

To follow Jesus means rejecting the world. It involves dying to self. It requires you to think—and act—differently. There’s no keeping up with the Joneses, giving them what they had coming to them, or even telling them to pick themselves up by their bootstraps. Some people don’t have bootstraps!

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. (Proverbs 31:8)

This includes the unborn, yes, but it also includes the marginalized, the forgotten, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the refugee. We all have a certain measure of power, given not for our own sake, but for the sake of others. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing. Everything we have—our money, time, talents, energy, power, influence, relationships—is a gift, on loan from God. We are to be good stewards and will one day given an account for what we did with what we’ve been given.

This is not a message about trying harder. It’s not a message about abusing yourself and being a doormat, either. Love your neighbor…as yourself.

It is a message of surrender, of letting go, of leveraging what you have for others, as Jesus did.

The Kingdom of God is upside-down where the greatest serve, where the first are last, and where power is poured out for others as Jesus poured out his life—and blood—for us.

Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One more thing…

I want to offer a final challenge to you today. Last week I said generosity kills the money monster, the temptation of greed. Likewise, there are three spiritual practices which kill the power monster, the temptation to selfishly use power. They are solitude, silence, and fasting. These classical disciplines—along with sabbath rest—allow us to disconnect from busyness, achievement, and striving and put our faith and trust into action. Dallas Willard’s classic The Spirit of the Disciplines and John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted are two recommended titles.

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

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

Meek, 26 July 2020

Blessed are the Meek
Blessed: The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:5

Series Big Idea: The greatest sermon in history is radical, revolutionary, and relevant.

Big Idea: The humble who use their power to bless others will be blessed.

NIV: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

The Message: “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (Matthew 5:5)

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word…power? Is it a corrupt politician? Maybe it’s something you are seeking. It could be a force like electricity or even a tornado.

Someone said power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but is it possible to use rather than abuse power?

Today we’re continuing our series on the Beatitudes, the blessings announced by Jesus. We are in Matthew’s gospel or “good news,” chapter five. In our previous weeks, we examined

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Our text for today says,

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Meek is an uncommon word in our modern vocabulary. In might conjure up images of weak, frail, and powerless. One definition calls the meek, “quiet, gentle, and easily imposed upon; submissive.” The doormats will inherit the earth?!

The Beatitudes—or blessings—taught by Jesus are not instructions to follow or things to achieve, but rather simple statements of reality. They announce what God is doing. They offer declarations about our present world and what is to come. In fact, many of them are filled with prophetic imagination, a vision of the future when there will be no tears, pain, or suffering.

It seems hard to image the weak inheriting the earth. But actually, that’s not at all what Jesus says. Meekness is not weakness. It’s quite the opposite. The original Greek word for meek used by Jesus,
praus, means power under control. It was used to describe a broken horse, one trained to be ridden or used to pull a vehicle. A wild horse does what it pleases, but a broken horse exhibits strength under control. It has the same power as a wild horse, but it’s used for the good of its rider.

Meekness is displayed in our lives through self-control. Have you ever met someone who lacked self-control? We often describe them as childish because children are often selfish, doing whatever they please. Unfortunately, many adults are concerned only about their needs and desires, thinking nothing of others.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

The humble, the self-controlled are blessed.

One of the most challenging verses in the entire Bible states,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Those are strong words from Paul: do nothing out of selfish ambition. Don’t be selfish. Instead, be meek. Use your power for the benefit of others, not yourself. Avoid the temptation to make it all about you, and seek the good of others.

Professor D.A. Carson says, “Meekness is a controlled desire to see the other’s interests advance ahead of one’s own.” It is gentle and humble in heart, but it is others-centered. The meek do get angry, but not because they are personally offended, but rather when they see others treated unjustly.

There could be no greater time to meditate on these words than at this moment in our lifetime. The pandemic has been an inconvenience for us all, a catastrophe for some, and a great opportunity for others. Many of you received a $1200 check a few months ago you didn’t expect when the year began. Some of you have received unemployment benefits, some greater than your previous paycheck. While some businesses were closing, others have been booming, hiring, and even offering bonuses to workers.
What does it look like to use our power for the benefit of others?

The second major story this year, of course, has been the cries of injustice. Though nothing new, the evil of racism has been exposed in fresh ways, reminding us that while we’re all created equal, we’re not all treated equal. Power is not distributed evenly…and while the temptation is always to abuse power, the meek will use it to bless and serve others. Any oppressed group—whether it’s workers in sweat shops, persecuted Christians, victims of prejudice, underpaid women—needs advocates who possess the power to liberate. What does it look like to use our power for the benefit of others?

Andy Crouch, one of the most thoughtful writers of my generation, wrote a book entitled,
Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power. His definition of power is, “the ability to make something of the world…the ability to participate in that stuff-making, sense-making process that is the most distinctive thing that human beings do.” He goes on to say, “Privilege is the ongoing benefit we receive from past successful acts of power.”

Our city has been rocked by two power scandals recently, one involving councilmen using their power inappropriately and another involved the Ohio House speaker over corruption allegations…ironically involved nuclear power. I’m not here to judge them, but they stand as obvious examples of people with power who used it for their gain rather than serving those who granted them the power in the first place.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

That hardly sounds like our materialistic, consumeristic, every person for themselves culture! Do you remember shopping for toilet paper a few months ago?!

Those who can control themselves, those who utilize power well, they are blessed and will inherit the earth. The Message reads,

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (Matthew 5:5, The Message)

One of the blessings of being meek is contentment. Why do we always seem to want more? Why do we silently envy those with more power? Why can’t appreciate what we have and who we are?

For one thing, comparison kills. How can I be satisfied if I see you have more toys or power than I have? It’s only an issue when my eyes are on you rather than on Jesus. Last week we said
anything you want more than God is an idol. Period. It can be money, pleasure, popularity, sex, your children or grandchildren, your marriage, your career, sports, entertainment, power…anything you want more than God is an idol.

Power isn’t bad, in and of itself. Just like money, it can be used and abused. We can use our reputation, resources, relationships, opportunities, education, and experience for our benefit…or the benefit of others.
Power is a gift. It can be used selfishly or generously. It’s a blessing, but you know the old adage it’s better to give than to receive.

Who do you know that is meek, that uses power well?
I often think of Abraham Lincoln as another meek person who used his power well. He was not a perfect man, but he blessed others. Another one of my personal “small-h” heroes is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Again, he was not perfect, but he gave his life for the freedoms and rights of others. Literally. Note: the meek often get killed! Blessing others can be costly. No good deed goes unpunished!

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes, “The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do…We are to leave everything—ourselves, our rights, our cause, our whole future—in the hands of God, and especially so if we feel we are suffering unjustly.”

What would it look like for you to use your power for the benefit of others, even to the point of suffering?

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

What does it mean to inherit the earth? The earth or land is a common subject throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible. God promised land to Abram in Genesis 12. The Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness in their journey to that place. Hundreds of years before Jesus’ declaration, the psalmist wrote,

A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (Psalm 37:10-11)

Later in that same psalm it says,

those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. (Psalm 37:22)


Hope in the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it. (Psalm 37:34)

For a first-century Jew, land meant Israel. It meant peace in their special land. For us, we can think of the new heaven and new earth promised in Revelation 21:1. Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth.

What does it look like to use our power for the benefit of others?

Abraham chose to give his nephew, Lot, the first choice of land in the book of Genesis chapter 13. Moses repeatedly demonstrated his meekness by refusing to defend himself and speaking to God on behalf of the wayward Israelites. Followers of Jesus are to…follow Jesus. We are to act like Jesus. We are to treat others the way Jesus treated people. Followers of Jesus are not here to be served, but to serve.

The greatest model of meekness was, of course, Jesus himself. James and John asked if they could sit beside Jesus in glory, an audacious request.

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:41-45)

The God who has all power gives life and creates. He is others-centered. He not only created us, He recreates us through the cross, the empty tomb, and the Holy Spirit. All power in heaven and on earth was given to him (Matthew 28:18), yet he did not come to be served, but to serve…and offer the greatest act of service: his own life.

That’s great news for us…as well as a challenging example for us to follow.

So What?

Perhaps you question whether you even have power, but every one of you has been blessed with power, with presence, with opportunities many on our planet could only imagine.
Somehow you were able to access this sermon. You may not have a title or position, but you have influence.

If we’re honest, we all want more, yet we believe others misuse theirs without giving a thought to the possibility that we could do the same. It’s so easy to criticize “those people” without realizing we might actually be “those people.”

Who are the powerless? Who are those with “less power?” Whose presence is ignored in our society? The invisible ones might be the elderly, the mentally ill, or the disabled. Our neighborhood is filled with people living below the poverty line, the homeless, the abused, the neglected. We partner with Cherry Street Mission and Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission to serve the powerless…with love, dignity and respect.

When I think of the powerless, one of the most significant groups is immigrants and refugees. Our Home Missions partner Water for Ishmael is devoted to caring for, loving, and educating those from other nations, many of whom have escaped wars and atrocities, desperate for survival, highly vetted, yet searching for hope, for opportunity, for a friend. Most of you can volunteer or give money to Water for Ishmael. It might be as simple as becoming a conversation partner, being a friend to someone from another country. We can all pray for them!

The poor. The powerless. Immigrants and refugees. “Pastor, do you have a political agenda?” This is not about elephants and donkeys, but about the Lion and the Lamb. These are kingdom of God issues. When Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth, its yet another example of his upside-down kingdom. It’s not about ascending the power structures of this world to dominate others as we’ve seen not only in business and politics but also throughout church history. It’s about the kingdom of heaven kissing earth, breaking in, the already-but-not-yet. The kingdom of God is here, but not fully here. We usher it in. We reveal it to the world. When we care for the least of these, when we serve others, when we love well, when we live counter-cultural, selfless lives, we offer glimpses of God’s kingdom to others.

Listen to the stories of others who don’t look, act, vote, smell, or sound like you. Once you’ve heard someone’s story, it’s nearly impossible for them to be your enemy.

Ask God to show you people who are invisible to you. It might be a neighbor, an entry-level worker at the grocery store or gas station, or even someone on the street. Notice them. Look them in the eye. Smile. Say hello. Thank them for their good work. Ask them about their life. Invite them to join us for Wednesday’s Ice Cream Sequel from 7-8 PM!

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Blessed are those whose
power is under control.

We live in possibly the most individualistic culture in history. I’m not critiquing it, but simply acknowledging it. We have tremendous freedoms thanks to the wisdom, sacrifice, and even death of others. But with freedom comes responsibility. We need to be good stewards of all of our gifts…time, talent, treasures, and freedoms.

The current pandemic is unlike any season in our lifetime. The information we have been given has been inconsistent, at times contradictory, in some instances outright lies, and at the very least a work in progress. It can be challenging to know what is true, what is right, and what to do. Every news source seems skeptical of every other news source. Cancel culture is stripping away nuance for the sake dangerous, binary thinking.

Nevertheless, anything you want more than God is an idol. This includes your own rights. The command of Jesus was not to love self, then love others, then love God. It was to love God first and foremost, and right below it to love others as you love yourself.

What does it look like to use our power for the benefit of others?

It’s easy to buy into the messages of our culture that it’s all about us, we deserve this and that, we have rights that we must defend, we’ve worked hard to earn our stuff so don’t ask me to share, …do I need to go on? Instead of following Jesus, too many of us are following nationalism, capitalism, or consumerism. We look and act just like our non-Christian neighbors when Jesus plainly tells us to be different, to live radical lives that are others-centered. That doesn’t mean we avoid self-care, but our highest purpose should be God’s glory. That’s the bottom line of our mission statement.

Family, I want to challenge you to use your power, your wealth, your education, your experience, your relationships for the benefit of others. Seeking first His Kingdom means being a good steward of all of your blessings.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

The blessing for the meek is two-fold. First, we said they can experience contentment. They accept that it’s not all about them. They already have everything…in Jesus. Second, they will one day encounter the fullness of their inheritance…in the new heaven and the new earth…the presence of God…for eternity! Hallelujah!

Credits: Some ideas from The Beatitudes Project, Dr. Matt Carter

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

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

Exorcism: Demons & Pigs, 27 August 2017

Exorcism: Demons & Pigs
Series— Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
Mark 5:1-20
Series Big Idea: The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!
Big Idea: Jesus has power over the supernatural…and we do, too.
The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses. (Deuteronomy 14:8)
Thus begins the context for today’s passage of scripture.
Pigs. Aren’t they cute? Not to Jews. Few things are more disgusting, more offensive. God gave the people of Israel dietary laws thousands of years ago, laws still followed today by millions of kosher people. Pigs are so detestable to the Jews that Proverbs says,
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. (Proverbs 11:22)
Does anyone else find it odd we celebrate the resurrection of the King of the Jews with ham?!
We’re continuing our series on The Real Jesus from the gospel or “good news” of Mark. We’ve seen Jesus’ ministry attract crowds and critics through teachings and miracles. Last week we saw him demonstrate his power over the natural world, calming a furious storm. Today’s text shows his power over the supernatural world, an unforgettable exorcism of demons.
Jesus has been sleeping in a boat with his disciples. He is awoken by his petrified friends, commands the winds and waves to be still, and seems upset at the fear and lack of faith his disciples possess.  
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. (Mark 5:1-5)
This scene could’ve inspired the creation of a horror film! Imagine a wild man living in a cemetery so filled with demons that he is given supernatural physical strength. He is a gruesome sight—what with cuts all of over his body—and the sounds are just as bad as he cries night and day. To say he was alone would be an understatement. Nobody dared approach this person who behaved more like an animal.
Before we go any farther let me state the importance of getting to know someone’s story before judging them. Our world is filled with people who look, smell, act, and sound different than us. There are people who offend us. There are people who scare us. There are people who hurt us. Why? Do you know their story?
I’m not suggesting we are to be best friends with everyone or that we are to naively welcome any stranger into our car or home. But hurt people hurt people. There are often tragic stories behind those people we find threatening. Maybe they were abused as a child, victims of injustice, born with disabilities, dealing with serious illnesses, or just prisoners of their own past mistakes.
This man was quite a sight, I’m sure, but he had a story. We don’t know it, but we do know he was a human being created in the image of God with dignity, value and worth. And he was loved by God despite being filled with demons. How did that happen? Again, we don’t know. How are people possessed by demons? Can Christians be possessed by demons?
These are great questions. I have neither the time nor the expertise to fully address these, but let me offer a few thoughts. These are my thoughts, not necessarily absolute truth. If you disagree, I’d love to hear from you. I have a lot to learn when it comes to the supernatural world. But here’s my best attempt to explain some common questions.
1.    The supernatural world is real. There are angels. There are demons, who are often considered fallen angels, cast from heaven along with satan.
The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (Revelation 12:9)
2.    Demons are personal beings. They know Jesus is the Son of God (Mk 1:24, 34; 5:6). They can lead people astray (1 Timothy 4:1-6; John 4:1-4). They have emotion and fear Jesus (James 2:19).
    Demons have power. They are dangerous. We need not fear them but we should never treat them casually. Their power is limited but real.
    Demons need an entry point. They don’t just take over someone randomly. Scripture prohibits things like trying to talk to the dead and sexual immorality. I believe witchcraft, illicit drugs, the occult and other sinful activities can be pathways to demonic possession. Evil spirits can use the human body to distort and kill people’s relationship with God…and others.
    Followers of Jesus are given the Holy Spirit and, therefore, cannot be possessed by a demon. They can, however, be oppressed by demons and struggle with temptation and sin.
    Demons can and should be exorcised, resulting in freedom.
    In the west, we acknowledge less positive and negative spiritual activity than in other parts of the world. Africa is especially spiritual. There are countless accounts of demonic and miraculous activity. We tend to be in denial about angels and demons and discount supernatural moments.
    Mental illness and demonic activity are often confused with one another. Both physical and mental sicknesses can be the result of demons, but not necessarily. At First Alliance we offer prayer for all types of illnesses, believing they might be the result of spiritual activity and—regardless of the source—God’s power is greater; it is unlimited. And God still answers prayers and does miracles (more on that next week!).
    Again, I’m not an expert in the supernatural and neither deny the reality of spiritual activity nor look for a demon in every Coke can. I participated—more or less as an observer—in an exorcism in college which was real and powerful.
We need to be aware of the supernatural without being scared of it. Though there are battles, Jesus is the ultimate victor. Love triumphs.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
We need not fear satan or demons. God in us—the Holy Spirit—is greater!
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
This is how we are to relate to God…and satan!
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” (Mark 5:6-8)
Is it the man or the demon shouting? Yes?
Few today would admit they are demon possessed, but so many in our culture live lives screaming at God and God’s Word and values. We can choose to follow God or follow the world, friends. It’s all about God or it’s all about you. Every day—every hour—we choose to follow God or choose to follow the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” 
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. (Mark 5:9-10)
I have been told demons have names and if you can identify their name you can validate their presence. A legion was the largest group in the Roman army, 3000-6000 soldiers. Notice that final sentence contains both the singular and plural: “he begged…send them out.” It seems the demons are speaking through the man.
The demons knew they had no chance against the power of Jesus so they begged him to not send them far away (Luke 8:31 calls it “the Abyss”). He could’ve cast them into hell, but the time for judgment had not yet come.
God’s timing is perfect. I wish he’d just throw satan and his friends into the eternal fire today, but for whatever reason it’s not yet time. Jesus once said
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41)
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. (Mark 5:11-13)
This was not Jewish land. Pigs were unclean. Jews were not allowed to eat—or even touch—pigs. Graveyards were unclean, too. Of course, the demoniac was
very unclean! Rome was unclean, too, a nation of pigs. And if you recall from last week, the sea was the place of monsters and Rome was the Monster of all monsters.
Jesus came announcing God’s kingdom, his rule over the world, bringing healing and justice and freedom to the world—Jews…and Gentiles.
The demons begged Jesus to send them to the pigs rather than the abyss. The demons couldn’t destroy the man so they destroyed the pigs.
About 2000 pigs! That’s quite a herd! No wonder their owners were upset! Their livelihood was gone.
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. (Mark 5:14-17)
You would think people would be glad to see Jesus. He did some radical life revitalization in just a few moments. But the pig owners have lost a truckload of pork, ham, bacon and sausage…and everyone else is probably freaked out! What just happened? The wild man? The pigs? The pigs drowning? They were afraid of Jesus’ supernatural power. What would he do next?
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (Mark 5:18-20)
Jesus often told people to keep quiet about him, but this time he says, “Share the good news of your healing with everyone.” And he did! Just speaking would be a wonderful testimony to people of God’s power. This was also a Gentile region, a pagan area where Jesus was not so well-known and where the Jewish religious leaders would not be trying to kill him. Rather than staying with Jesus, the freed man is commissioned to tell others about Christ and his power. 
So What?
We are, too! Has Jesus forgiven you? Has he healed you? Has he transformed your life? Has he turned your despair into hope, your mourning into dancing, your bondage into freedom, your anxiety into peace? If so, tell the world! Good news needs to be shared, especially when most of it seems to be bad or fake…or both!
Our world is hurting. They need to know hope is available, healing is available through Jesus. If we don’t share Jesus—in word and deed—with others, how will they know?
And if you’ve ever felt unqualified or unprepared, look at this once-demonized man. He didn’t go to seminary. He wasn’t a priest or pastor. He never even went to Sunday School! He simply encountered Jesus and shared his story with others. Do you have a story? Don’t keep it to yourself! Nobody can argue with your story. You don’t have to prove scientifically the existence of God through archaeology or scholarship—though many have. You simply need to let others know what Jesus has done—and is doing—in your life.
As we think about Jesus and all he has done for us, I’m reminded of these words from N.T. Wright:
At the climax of Mark’s story Jesus himself will end up naked, isolated, outside the town among the tombs, shouting incomprehensible things as he is torn apart on the cross by the standard Roman torture, his flesh torn to ribbons by the small stones in the Roman lash. And that, Mark is saying, will be how the demons are dealt with. That is how healing takes place. Jesus is coming to share the plight of the people, to let the enemy do its worst to him, to take the full force of evil on himself and let the others go free.
We live in the space between…Jesus’ first and second comings. We have the Holy Spirit. God is alive and on the move, but the battle rages on. We see it every day on the news, in hospitals, in rehab centers, in bankruptcy and divorce courts, at funeral homes.
Demons are real. They seek to indwell mankind. Evil is real. Satan is real. But Jesus is greater!
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)
We have been given power and authority by Jesus who said:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
After 72 of Jesus’ followers returned from ministry…
He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)
Jesus is alive and he has entrusted his Church to us, his world to us. Let’s go and let the whole world know Jesus loves them and is still bringing deliverance and healing to the hurting and broken willing to surrender to his lordship.
One more thing: demonic activity is all over the New Testament and I don’t believe it has ceased. If you or someone you know would like deliverance, we’d love to pray for you. That doesn’t mean you are possessed or oppressed or that you’ve done anything wrong, but if you feel defeated by sin, perhaps you need deliverance. The name of Jesus is still driving out demons and making them tremble today. Hallelujah!
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.
  • 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.
  • Supernatural: Exorcism & Healings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I mentioned John 3:16.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mark continues…

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

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

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

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

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

    What is this? The people asked the same thing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What a day! And he wasn’t done.

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

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

    The demons knew Jesus. Do they know you?

    So What?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • When Friends Let You Down, 6 December 2015

    When Friends Let You Down
    Series: Be Here Now
    1 Samuel 30:6

    Series Overview:
    Christmas is the celebration of “presence.”

    Big Idea: We must be present with and find our strength in God, even when friends desert us.


    This morning we are continuing our Advent series, Be Here Now, messages about presence—not presents you buy and wrap but presence—being fully present. Last week we noted The Golden Rule, Jesus’ timeless command to

    Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)

    We’ve all been annoyed by people who are present physically with us but are in another place mentally and emotionally. Whether they are distracted by texts on their phone, yawning binges and fatigue, daydreaming, or multitasking, it’s frustrating and downright offensive to be ignored.

    It’s one thing to struggle for attention during a lunch conversation but quite another to be ignored or even abandoned in a relationship.

    Have you ever been deserted by a friend? Have you invested in a friendship only to watch it die? What do you do when you’re willing to be fully present with someone and they no longer show up?


    One of the great things about the Bible is its authenticity. You can’t make this stuff up! Today we’re going to look at three biblical characters, one from the Old and the other two from the New Testament. The first involves David. King David is one of the most important figures not only in the Bible but in human history. He became the second king of Israel following Saul, famous for a battle won against a giant named Goliath, and—like all of us—an imperfect sinner.

    The book of 1 Samuel chapter 30 describes one of David’s worst moments as a warrior…prior to assuming the throne.

    David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. (1 Samuel 30:1-2)

    This is not a good day!

    When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. (1 Samuel 30:3-5)

    Imagine how David is feeling. His two wives—we don’t have time today to discuss polygamy!—have been captured. Defeat is visible everywhere. He’s desperate.


    Shawn Achor, Harvard researcher and author of
    How Happiness Fuels Your Success, says, “The social connection is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness by far…social connection is not only the greatest predictor of happiness, social connection is as predictive of how long you will end up living as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking.”

    Connection to friends is the key indicator of happiness and a huge factor in how long you will live!

    What are the implications of that when we lose friends? Huge!

    I know what it’s like to lose friends.

    One of my very best friends drifted away, failing to return phone calls and showing no interest in me and our relationship.

    A few years ago after gently confronting another friend about his offensive behavior a similar situation occurred. Not only did he no longer reach out to me, he said things to other friends who stopped inviting us to social gatherings.

    There are other examples, but none come close to the intensity of David’s loss.

    Back to David!

    David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. (1 Samuel 30:6a)

    It’s one thing to lose a friend. It’s another thing entirely to have friends that want to see you lose your life! What would you do…after you ran from these angry men?!

    But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6b)

    This is an example of a good “but.” It’s worth noting the word “LORD” is capitalized. This is the Hebrew word that is essentially spelled YHWH. We don’t know how to pronounce it because Hebrew has no vowels and because it is the holy name of God, the name spoken to Moses at the Burning Bush. To this day Jews will not utter the word because they don’t want to dishonor it in any way. The word “Adonoi” is a more common word for “lord” often used instead. “In English, the Tetragrammaton—another term for YHWH— is in all-caps LORD to distinguish it from Adonai.

    I once asked my Messianic Jewish rabbi friend about the pronunciation of YHWH. It is my understanding that Jehovah is grossly incorrect. When I asked Allen if it is Yahweh, he said, “That’s very close!” refusing to speak the word himself.

    But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6b)

    This holy word for God describes Him as “I Am,” as the one who exists and/or causes existence. When abandoned by friends, David found strength in Am, in the LORD God.

    One of the great things about God is He never changes. Hebrews tells us

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)


    Paul, once known as Saul, wrote much of the New Testament. In his second letter to his disciple Timothy, he writes,

    Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

    Notice Paul not only acknowledges the painful loss of a friend, he offers a warning to Timothy. Alexander is not a safe person. Boundaries are necessary.

    We are to love all—look out for their best interests—but that does not mean we are to be best friends with everyone. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if Alexander was the only lost friend, but Paul continues…

    At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. (2 Timothy 4:16)

    Not only does Paul not complain, he speaks on behalf of those who deserted him, and then he offers a “but” similar to David.

    But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:17-18)

    Paul turns to God for strength, then seeks the glory of God in all things. Every story in the Bible is ultimately about God’s glory.

    Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. (Isaiah 26:8)

    He leveraged the good and bad for the glory of God.


    Our third biblical character was denied three times by one of His three best friends, Peter. He was betrayed by one of His twelve closest friends, Judas. I’m speaking of Jesus. As painful as those experienced must have been, nothing can compare to the anguish of being forsaken by the Father as He hung on the cross.

    From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matthew 27:45-46)

    When David and Paul were deserted, they turned to God.

    When Jesus was deserted, He had nowhere to turn.

    After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

    “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. (John 17:1)

    Jesus died for the glory of God. Did you catch that? He died for us, but even more He died for the glory of God.

    In Jesus’ hour of greatest need, He turned to the Father. Where do you turn when you feel alone, abandoned, betrayed?

    So What?

    It’s impossible to be fully present with someone who’s not even there! The wounds of a friend run deep, and many common psychological problems stem from abandonment issues, often parents, but also friends. It takes years to build trust but only seconds to destroy it.

    This season is “the most wonderful time of year” for some, yet it’s the most depressing time of year for others. Loneliness can be deadly—literally. If you feel alone, I have great news for you!

    First, whether you know or accept it, you are a part of a family—the First Alliance family. You belong here!

    As I mentioned a few weeks ago, our worship gathering is not the ideal environment for developing relationships, but we have Sunday School classes at 9 AM and Growth Groups that meet tonight and throughout the week, both smaller gatherings of people who not only study the Bible and pray but do life together. I urge you to get connected in a small group.

    Second, Jesus understands. He was not only abandoned by friends, He was abandoned for a time by God the Father as our sins upon Christ were unbearable. He experience the ultimate pain, grief and loss.

    For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

    Third and finally, God is with you…always. We’ll discuss this further the next two weeks. One of the names of Jesus, Emmanuel, means “God with us.” Although Jesus is not physically with us at the moment, He left the Holy Spirit for all who believe in Him to experience. The Holy Spirit lives inside every follower of Jesus!


    Relationships are risky. Friends can turn on you. Bonds can be broken. Such pain can make us bitter—or it can make us better as we run to Jesus, our big Brother who knows suffering and abandonment better than any of us could imagine.

    This Advent season and every day of the year let’s be fully present for one another—inward. Let’s we reach out to the lonely and needy—outward. And let’s reach upward to Emmanuel, God with us.

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here. You can subscribe to the free FAC Focus e-newsletter 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.