October 2, 1988
Like a Child
(Mark 10:2-16)
I would rather preach about anything than preach about divorce. I’ve often wondered why this is true. Maybe it is because divorce is too painful. Or maybe it is because divorce is so pervasive.
It would be difficult to imagine a more threatening topic. The Bible has few ambiguous phrases for a preacher to hide behind. It may be difficult to be prophetic about a subject which touches so many lives within the circle of people with whom the preacher associates.
Condemning the government of South Africa or a “kiddie-porn ring” seems relatively safe — after all not many of them will show up on Sunday morning. Mark, however, will force us to deal with this obviously painful issue of divorce no matter how artful our dodges.
I. An Insincere Question
In the first part of our text, Mark 10:2-9, the Pharisees attempt to trip up Jesus. It seems that even in Jesus’ time, the question of divorce was not as “cut and dried” as the proponents of the “good old days” might lead us to believe.
In the face of this testing question, Jesus simply asks a counter question, “What did Moses command you?” After their answer, Jesus begins his interpretation of what Moses allowed.
Jesus tells these leaders of the synagogue Moses allowed divorce for one simple reason: the people’s hardness of heart. As Jesus finishes His discussion, he explains God’s way of joining male and female as one flesh. People want their divisiveness accommodated, but God’s desire is for them to live in unity.
II. A Sincere Question
When I was a sophomore in high school I got to be friends with my math tutor. She also was a cheerleader. One day between classes I said, “Say, would you like to go to the homecoming dance?”
“Sure,” she replied.
You cannot imagine my embarrassment when later I got to her house.
Her father said she had already gone to the dance — with someone else. My question had been in earnest, but she had heard it as only part of daily idle chatter. “Of course, I want to go to the dance,” she had said. “Everyone wants to go.”
The disciples, too, ask again the earnest question concerning divorce. Again Jesus gives a straight forward answer reflecting the Mosaic legal stance regarding divorce and adultery. His position is disturbingly clear.
III. “Like a Child …”
Our reading ends in a strange way. The last four verses of our passage are about the children coming to Jesus and how they were rebuked by the disciples. Then Jesus rebukes the rebukers by saying: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
Was it by design that a Marcan passage dominated by the theme of divorce could conclude with a picture of Jesus blessing the children. In fact, Mark ends this image of Jesus and the children together with the Master’s hand resting upon them. His statement — “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” — disturbs those who remember the social status of children in Jesus’ day. I think Mark put these stories together with a great theological purpose.
IV. Adults, Children and the Kingdom of God
Why does Jesus make such a strong identification between children and the kingdom of God? Notice how adults deal with conflict — in this case the vexing problem within the institution of marriage. From the context of this gospel, divorce has been a problem at least as far back as Moses’ time. When adults have conflict, one solution is to break relationship totally, completely and finally.
This is not the way with children. Any parent who spanks a two-year-old will have that child back on the lap within a few minutes; no hard feelings. Jesus is saying something to adults locked in conflict about God’s will. God wants committed human relationships which are forgiving and growing.
Maybe children can teach us about marriage … and the Kingdom of God. (DM)
October 9, 1988
The Promise of Sabbath Rest
(Hebrews 4:1-3, 9-13)
Though we may never think about it, the Bible is its own best interpreter. Over and over, scripture reinterprets itself for a new generation in a new situation. This is what is going on in our passage today.
In selected verses from Hebrews 4, the author reinterprets God’s promises made to the Israelites. The author puts these promises into the context of a new situation. This situation is the one in which the early Christian community found itself.
I. God’s Past Promise
Psalm 95 plays a prominent part in the setting of Hebrews 4. The Psalm is a hymn of joy and thanksgiving used at the time of harvest. What begins as a song of praise soon turns into a liturgy of instruction. “O that today you would hearken to his voice …” (Ps. 95:7, RSV).
The Psalmist proceeds to use the Israelites as an example of unfaith. They did not receive God’s promise because of this. Hebrews 4, likewise, uses unfaith as a negative example.
II. God’s Present Promise
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it” (p. 4, RSV). The author of Hebrews is telling these new believers that the promise of God is still operative, though they must claim it as their promise. If they do not, the judgment will be they, like the Israelites, will have failed to reach “the promised rest.”
This rest is the “Sabbath rest” spoken of throughout the whole of Hebrews. This rest has multiple images. “Ending the wilderness wanderings,” “eternal life,” entering the “Kingdom of God” and even the “rest God took at the end of creation” are but a few of the rich word-pictures “Sabbath rest” conjures. To the early Christians, Hebrews points out this promise from God is still a reality.
III. God’s Future Promise
Can modern people learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others? Several years ago my wife and I had some people over for supper. After the meal was finished, we had strawberry shortcake for dessert. Helen playfully picked up the pressurized whipped cream can, pointed it right at me and said, “You dare me?”
“Yes!”
After the initial shock passed, our guests were completely immobilized with laughter. My face was covered with whipped cream. Silhouetted against the wall behind me was a likeness of my head outlined in whipped cream. To this day I have never dared Helen in any way.
To be a human is to be able to learn. How must we respond to situations which we have previously encountered? Hebrews takes an example from Israel’s faith history and makes it a lesson, not only for the early Christians, but for us as well.
God’s promise of rest is always present. But we, like our ancient Israelite brothers and sisters, must meet the promise of faith. If we do not, then we will learn from our own mistakes, rather than the mistakes of others. (DM)
October 16, 1988
The High Priest Leads Us Back to God
(Hebrews 4:14-16)
A question many Christians have today is the question of how we can approach the throne of grace? It is a question which was asked early on — even in Old Testament times. Our author tries to help people with an Israelite cultic background understand how Jesus surpasses even this most traditional way of worshiping God. It is in this theological understanding that the expected messiah now becomes Christ.
I. The Human Condition
The Christian faith believes that the once-perfect relationship between God and human beings has been shattered. There is a gulf between the Creator and His prime creature that requires a bridge. The whole Bible is an attempt to construct such a bridge.
The New Testament, in particular, is a concerted effort to reestablish the relationship between God and God’s people. The focus of Christianity and its scripture is on Jesus who is proclaimed to be God’s Messiah. Paul himself says, “… in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself …” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Why are humans so prone to break relationship with God in the first place? The answer is both simple and complex, yet the simple answer may be the most instructive. People are basically so insecure that they trust neither other people nor God. This fear creates anxiety, alienation and the feeling of self-dependency.
II. The Way Back to God
In Israel’s worship system, when one wanted to get back in “God’s good graces” a sacrifice would be made by a priest on behalf of the person and his family. The awesome irony of the cross is that it is now God, rather than the sinner, who is willing to sacrifice in order to establish the human-divine relationship. This is the absolute greatness of God and the love He has for His creation: nothing will stop God from reclaiming His own!
Peace offerings are always interpreted as signs of good faith. Peace offerings pave the way for prayers in the Temple to reach their final destination: God. Even Jacob, when contemplating the fateful reunion with his brothr Esau, sent ahead a peace offering proportional to the degree of his apology. We aren’t surprised when Jacob sends all he has.
Yet in spite of all people’s trespasses against God and human guilt piled high, it is still our God who reestablishes the covenant relationship with His people.
III. The High Priest is the Way
Speaking to Christians who well understood the cultic sacrificial system, the writer of Hebrews says, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (v. 15, RSV).
Jesus is this high priest. And here is the nature of His mysterious ability to both be tempted as we are and “yet without sin”: the incarnation. Jesus as the Christ and high priest is fully human and fully divine. In His humanity He can completely relate to our temptations. In His divinity, however, He is able to withstand the human propensity to sin.
“Remember Victor Hugo’s story Ninety-Three? A ship is caught in a terrific storm, and when it is at its height, the frightened crew hear a terrible crashing sound below. They know what it is. A cannon they are carrying has broken loose and is crashing into the ship’s sides with every smashing blow of the sea. Two men at the risk of their lives manage to fasten it again, for they know that it is more dangerous than the storm.
“And that is like human life! It is not the storm which is our greatest danger. It is that terrible corruption loose within us which will send us to the bottom. Until we can be saved from that, there is no hope for us. Some power has to help keep safe and sane the wild enemy within.” (The Lion and the Lamb, Gerald Kennedy, Abingdon, 1950, pp. 39-40)
The trust of God through the power of our high priest Jesus Christ is what saves us from ourselves and puts us back into right relationship with God. (DM)
October 23, 1988
Hope for the Hopeless
(Mark 10:46-52)
The Gospels were collections of stories gathered by each evangelist for a specific community of people having a particular set of needs. Thus, much like Paul’s letters, Mark’s gospel story is told with particular needs. One of several needs we can identify in this story of blind Bartimaeus is the need for hope.
I. What?
Socially speaking, there is no affliction which removes one from the mainstream of life as quickly and completely as blindness. Blind persons in scripture have little going for them. The story of the man blind from birth in John 9 also describes a beggar. John’s blind beggar is in worse condition than blind Bartimaeus — at least Bartimaeus has a name.
Vocationally, the physically-afflicted have few alternatives by which to earn daily bread. Often, begging is a last resort. Beggars sit by the roadside entrance to the city begging from passers-by. Another popular place for begging is in front of the Temple.
When I lived in Liberia, West Africa, beggars used to sit at the entrance of Monrovia’s bank. Their thinking must have been that people would either have money going into the bank or coming out.
For a sightless person in Jesus’ time, or ours, life is difficult enough without the social stigma cast upon these whom society perceives as handicapped. The text tells us Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is passing by and immediately begins shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Evidently, Bartimaeus embarrasses the crowd for some of them tell him to be silent.
Such is life for those who aren’t normal like us. If they would just keep their place and not inconvenience the rest of us with their special needs! These attitudes, seen in Jesus’ day are, unfortunately, with us still.
II. So What?
Jesus’ response to Bartimaeus’ call no doubt astonishes the multitudes and the disciples. The fact that Jesus looks directly upon the man and talks to him as any other person probably amazed those who were watching nearly as much as the miracle of giving him his sight.
As many people with handicapping conditions will attest, it is more painful to be ignored completely than to receive any other kind of treatment. Jesus not only speaks to him directly, He asks an almost-humorous question: “What do you want me to do for you?”
Of course, Bartimaeus wants his sight. Jesus responds to the request, tells him his faith has made him well, and gives him his sight. Notice a funny thing: Jesus sends him on his way, but his way is different now.
The last phrase of Mark’s story tells us the rest of Bartimaeus’ story: “… he received his sight and followed Him on the way.” Jesus had not only given physical sight, but spiritual insight. Bartimaeus had woken up that morning as a blind beggar and gone to sleep as a disciple of Jesus, the Son of David!
III. Now What?
Every preacher has had this experience. In one of my first churches, several of the saints kept asking me when I was going to “start really letting them have it.” I told them I wasn’t sure what they meant. “Oh, you know! Really start stepping on our toes.” Being somewhat baffled I persuaded them to help me understand why this was so important to them. “Why do you want me to yell and scream?”
They went on to tell me in so many words that they felt themselves to be sinners and when the preacher really “let ’em have it” they felt a lot better.
So I said, “you want me to yell at you for being so bad, then you can feel good?” They told me I was a fast learner.
Most experts dealing with helping professions will say people’s most difficult obstacle is developing a positive self-image. This is not to say we are not sinful or willful. Rather, the fact that people are most likely to perceive themselves in the worst possible light rather than the best. We are children of God, though we may appear to be “children of the devil.”
Jesus sees us for what we are, restores us to a worthy self-image and gives us a place and a task in the Kingdom of God. All because we are creatures of a loving God.
Jesus gives sight to blind Bartimaeus for the same reason He healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and for the same reason He heals us: we each and every one are called to service “on the way” to the Kingdom. (DM)
October 30, 1988
The Title …
(Deuteronomy 6:1-9)
The covenant with Yahweh was central to the relationship between the children of Israel and their God. When the people lived in accordance with the covenant, they prospered. When they departed from the covenant they did not do well. It would be fair to say the whole of the Old Testament could be read through the eyes of covenant faithfulness or covenant unfaithfulness.
Our passage today could be described as the “Reader’s Digest version” of the long and detailed covenant relationship between Yahweh and Israel. Deuteronomy 6:1-9 is a concentrated form of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. This passage is a good summary of the message imparted through Moses and related through the books which bear Moses’ name.
I. The Last Shall Be First
The primary focus of this passage is, no doubt, what we call “the Shema.” This word Shema comes from the Hebrew word which means “to hear” (v. 4). The Shema has been called “the Apostle’s Creed” of the Old Testament.
What is being cleverly suggested is that these verses are the summation of Israel’s faith. If we look at verses 4 through 9 we see a concise statement of what the Hebrews were called to affirm by Moses.
The content is also familiar to readers of the Gospel. Jesus quotes these words regularly in His teaching. God alone is God and people of faith are to love God with absolute singularity of purpose. True faith in this God allows no division of thought, devotion, or intensity.
Further, this purity of heart and life is to be lived by the whole community. Children also are to be taught devotion. This devotion is to consume a person at all times — “when you lie down and when you rise” (p. 7).
The Shema is Moses calling his people to faith in God. But what is the reward of faith? We, as the ancient Hebrews, are likely to ask such questions. Is the pay-off, so to speak, the first three verses of our passage? If the people are faithful, then are these what God promises? We might call these promises “the five thats of the Shema.”
II. The Five Thats of the Shema
Often, when the business of task and reward are discussed they seem to be presented in this explicit order: if you do this thing, then this compensation will follow. The passage from Deuteronomy seems to reverse the normal order. The “rewards” from Yahweh are given to the people by Moses in a series of “thats.” In other words, the Israelites are beckoned to follow the commandments of Yahweh so that certain promises will follow.
Moses catalogues these for the people: that they will enter the land, that they may fear the Lord, that they may have long life, that it will go well with them, and their their children will be many (vss. 1-2).
Yet the Lord does not simply give promises to people based on some type of barter system. God gives freely out of His loving care for Yahweh’s own chosen people.
Our greatest temptation in our relationship with God is to try and bargain our way into that relationship. Serving God through obedience is the reward itself. Any honest and grateful recipient of this faith relationship knows the relationship is purely a gift of grace.
III. The Sheep of the Shema
A young woman from India told a powerful story about loving and serving God as its own reward. Once there was an independent sheep and he found a hole in the sheep pen’s fence and escaped. He was overjoyed in his newly found freedom. But he became lost and couldn’t return to the fold. He was cold and lonely and hungry. Suddenly, he realized he was being followed by a wolf. The sheep ran and ran, but the wolf kept getting closer and closer. As the wolf was about to have this independent sheep for dinner, the shepherd appeared and took the sheep back to the fold. The shepherd never rebuked the sheep. No matter what his friends tell him, the shepherd will not repair the hole in the fence. (DM)
November 6, 1988
The Challenge of Christianity
(Mark 12:38-44)
There’s something challenging about the game of racquetball. Two opponents in an enclosed four-wall room with a little blue ball and a racquet in hand. The swish sound of the racquet in air and the resounding of the ball against the wall expresses the intensity of the players. The rules of winning are simple: the first person to score 21 points wins. But the challenge lies between 0 and 21.
One of the definitions of the word challenge states that it is an invitation or a dare to participate in a contest. For the racquetball player it’s a game; for the Christian it is life. Christ presents a challenge for you and me.
I. Christianity Challenges Our Motives of Action (v. 38-40)
When we think of the word “Pharisee,” one dominating thought cries out: Hypocrite! Yet this religious order grew out of the Hasidaeons, the “godly people” who, after the return from exile, gave concerned leadership to practicing the sacred law and opposing Hellenization.
The name Pharisee means “the separated ones,” first appearing in the records of King John Hyrcanus (134-104 B.C.) whose policies they opposed. The Pharisees were the orthodox core of all Judaism — no liberals need apply for membership! They held to the inerrancy of the whole body of Jewish Scriptures.
What happened? If they were the conservative, religious wing of Jewish religion, why did Jesus call them “white-washed fences” and never get along with them? Maybe it’s because they lost their spiritual “motive.”
The word motive refers to the internal factors which produce human behavior. Motives consciously or unconsciously move a person to action; they induce people to act in a certain way. The Pharisees started out with a motive to serve God, but lost it along the way.
They got wrapped up in themselves, their customs, their habits — and then things became ends in themselves. They wore flowing robes that swept the ground to show they were leisured men of honor who loved the prestige of doing nothing. They loved “greetings” in the marketplace.
The title Rabbi means “My Great One” and that’s how they felt. They liked the synagogue’s front seats. They sat in front of the ark where the sacred volumes were kept, and faced the congregation where they were in full view of the admiring, envious crowd.
They were VIPs. They jockeyed for the highest places at the Feast. There was a set procedure of seating arrangements, and everybody knew who was the most important!
Jesus challenges their motive, for they had lost their first love: God.
Sixty years ago J. H. Jowett saw a half dozen “sandwich” men walking the streets of London, looking thoroughly pinched and starved and wretched, and their boards carried the advertisement as to where the onlookers could get “the best dinners in town.”
The Pharisees had become spiritually famished, starved for real righteousness. Jesus came to bring real righteousness, but He was rejected.
What about us? We, too, may have started out with a super “experience” with God. Highly spiritually motivated, nothing could keep us from the Kingdom and its business. We charged around on white horses righting wrongs, bringing truth, justice and the Christian way.
What happened? Did we by chance exchange causes for God? Are we truly Christian or did somebody secretly change our I.D. tag to read Pharisee when we weren’t watching?
II. Christianity Challenges Our Motives for Giving (vs. 41-44)
Stepping quietly on the stage is a little lady … a widow. She walks into the Court of Women which houses the Treasury — with thirteen brazen receptacles, shaped like trumpets, lining the wall waiting for the worshipper to toss in their offerings … some for coins, others for goods. There Pharisees came “for a show” (Greek prophasis), but not this lady.
With bowed head and cloaked in humility, she tosses her two coins into the receptacle. Each coin was called a “lepton” — literally it means “a thin one.” It was the smallest coin, worth one-sixteenth of a penny.
Her giving greatly impressed Jesus. It must have been refreshing — coming right from his argument with the Pharisees and the tension of the Court of Gentiles and discussion in the cloisters — to see this unselfish act of giving.
Someone outlines this section as (1) Giving to be Giving must be sacrificed. (2) Giving which is real giving has a certain recklessness (spontaneity) in it. (3) Giving which is real giving never comes up short.
Here is a great principle: if we want to live, we must give. Our motivation is to give God glory … to honor Him. (DGK)
November 13, 1988
Anticipating His Coming
(Mark 13:24-32)
Something special about that new car I bought made me anxious about its arrival. I waited and watched every car-carrier out of Detroit to see if that auto was on the trailer. My wife and I put some of those “special features” on it hoping to keep it a long time.
I can remember the day it came. I was at our shopping center’s parking lot and looked up and saw it on the trailer along with four or five others. I rushed to the car dealer and arrived just in time to watch them drive it off the back. Was I excited? You can bank on it.
Funny how we get so “antsy” about those kinds of things. We are all like that about something. We anticipate a new car, stove, books, desk, vacation, you name it.
What about the spiritual realm? Is it possible to move through life not expecting the greatest event we will have in history: the second coming of Jesus Christ?
In these verses, Jesus asserts some critical events in anticipation of His return.
I. Watching for Jesus Includes Unnatural Signs (v. 24-25)
The earlier passage talks about earthquakes and famines; however, this Scripture points to unnatural disasters. There will be eclipses of sun and moon, falling of stars, shaking of the heavens defying all scientific understanding.
Whether we take His words literally or as pictorial wording, the meaning is clear: something dramatic will reduce the haphazard, lackadaisical, care-free attitude that most people have concerning their spiritual lives. Additionally the world will be unable to stand the way it currently is now. It will change as part of the birth pangs of the Biblical New Age.
II. Watching for Jesus Includes Power and Glory (v. 26)
Words that help define power include: Might (Geburah), Force or Valor (Chaycil), Ability (Dunamis), Privilege or Authority (Exousia). Behind the word glory we might find: Adornment (Addereth), Honor (Hadar), Beauty or Majesty (Hod), Cleanness or Purity (Tohar), Preciousness or Rarity (Yeqar).
He is the power. He is the glory. Now apply the definitive words to Him. As we do, remember He has given us the victory in His Immortal Power and Glory.
The admirers of Charlemagne set up his corpse in the grave, crowned his pulseless temples, and put a scepter in his bloodless fingers. Grim mockery! But our King Eternal has overcome the grave and sin and hell and He is coming for His saints. Praise be to our God. Have you caught sight of His Power and Glory?
III. Watching for Jesus Includes Anticipation of the Saints (v. 28-32)
Those who experience Him as ultimate reality are ready. They know history is going somewhere. There is a consummation coming. Foolish men become immersed in earthly trinkets. The wise men are those who never forget that they are to be watchful — awake to the spirit part of life and ready when summoned. If life is lived with that in mind, the end will not terrorize, but be joyous. It is Jesus for whom we wait.
The young wife of an army officer had been separated from her husband’s presence almost from their wedding day. She anticipated his return each day, receiving with pleasure his gifts and letters, but waiting each day for him. When at last he came suddenly, she did not read the letter that the postman just brought, did not open the gift package just then, but rushed to embrace him.
So should we wait the coming of our Lord — the King of Glory! (DGK)
November 20, 1988
Christ’s Kingdom
(John 18:33-37)
As you read this Scripture the first question that pops out of Pilate’s mouth is: “Are you the King of the Jews?” In his mind there may actually be a national threat existing if Jesus answers affirmatively. At the core of the struggle lies the kingship issue. In his mind Pilate wonders if Jesus plans to launch a political or military revolution.
A King is one who has absolute, sovereign reign over something — in this case a Kingdom. A Kingdom is a territory, people, state, possession or realm that is ruled over by a King.
When Jesus says, “My Kingdom is not of this world,” that’s what Pilate wanted to hear. These Jews didn’t have a leg to stand on. He would turn Jesus loose. After all, Pilate was a pragmatist, a military and political strategist. He didn’t care for philosophical abstractions about truth, eternity or spirituality.
In his mind and heart Pilate wanted to let Christ go. He struggled over it and did what he could conveniently do — politically. It wasn’t enough, however, for Jesus was executed.
Yet that is not the finale of the story. The resurrection of Jesus draws the Kingdom into eternal perspective! Christ’s triumph is really the apex of the truth of Kingdomship. His Kingdom is one of real power that outlasts Pilate’s and, in the end, judges every earthly power. Each Kingdom has geographical limitations, but not King Jesus! His Kingdom knows no boundaries.
I. Christ’s Kingdom Is Not Garrisoned in Earthly Locations, But In the Hearts of People
In Baltimore one Sunday morning, as the people were going to church, a telegraph pole — large and strong and round — suddenly, without any warning, groaned. Then, with a snapping, tearing, grinding sound, the upper portion fell to the street, leaving about twenty-five feet standing.
A crowd soon gathered, marveling at what should have caused a catastrophe. Just then a small boy began to climb the stump that was left to investigate. When he reached the top he found right where the pole had broken was a place where a pair of woodpeckers had cut out their nest; there in the nest was a poor little woodpecker frightened half to death.
Unnoticed, but steadily, stroke after stroke, the birds had dug their way back into the heart of that great, strong telegraph pole until they had sapped its strength. Sometimes a man or woman comes crashing down. The outer life has seemed strong and round and respectable. The whole world marvels at it; but after a little bit it is discovered that some secret sin had eaten into the heart.
We think we are so strong with all of our wealth, materialism, macho-style heroes; but if we put our Kingdom trust in this world we will be disappointed. Christ came to reside in our hearts and keep us whole and holy!
II. Christ’s Kingdom Is Not Physical Power, But Love Power
The Master would never deny that He aimed at conquest, but it was the conquest of love!
A needle will move toward a magnet once the magnet has moved near to it. It is ours to run to Jesus as if all the running were ours; but the truth is that the Lord has already come toward us.
III. Christ’s Kingdom Is Not Time Limited, but Timeless
All Kingdoms have ended or will end, but not Christ’s Kingdom.
Above the triple doorways of the Cathedral of Milan there are three inscriptions. Over one is carved a beautiful wreath of roses and underneath is the legend, “All that which pleases is but for a moment.” Over the other is sculpted a cross, with the words, “All that which troubles is but for a moment.” But over the great central entrance to the main aisle is the inscription, “That only is important which is eternal.”
A. B. Simpson wrote a song that brings this sermon to a conclusion, and asks you for a conclusion, too.
Jesus is standing in Pilate’s hall,
Friendless, forsaken, betrayed by all:
Hearken! What meaneth the sudden call?
What will you do with Jesus?
Jesus is standing on trial still,
You can be false to Him if you will.
You can be faithful through good or ill:
What will you do with Jesus?
Jesus, I give Thee my heart today!
Jesus, I’ll follow Thee all the way,
Gladly obeying Thee!” will you say:
“This will I do with Jesus!”
What will you do with Jesus?
Neutral you cannot be;
Someday your heart will be asking,
What will He do with me?”
(DGK)
November 27, 1988
The Joy of Friendship
(1 Thess. 3:9-13)
A prize-winning definition of friendship goes: “A friend is the person who comes in when every other person has gone out.”
This kind of friendship characterizes Jesus, and should also be demonstrated by His disciples. Christ’s advent into our world breaks barriers of hostility and hatred. What a fellowship … what a joy divine! What a message of hope to brothers and sisters in Christ everywhere!
What is included in this “Joy of Friendship?”
I. The Joy of Friendship Includes Prayer
It will not come as a shock that this section of Thessalonians closes with a prayer. Genuine Christian relationships are cemented together in prayer.
Praying together in small groups, praying together around the altars of our church, praying in a hospital room with parents who have just lost their two-month old by crib death, praying as intercessors one for another, and prayer as praise.
Gary Demarest in the Communicators Commentary insists that our need is one of specifics. He writes, “To pray specifically is to bring the details of our lives into God’s presence … to pray in specifics is to open ourselves to God’s direction and control.”
When we pray our lives are inseparably intertwined with our brethren and with Christ. Vulnerability exists, but the joy comes by faith and trust.
II. The Joy of Friendship Includes Faith
Faith is that voluntary assent that man gives to the revelation of God — the self committal or trust given to the Lord. It also has to do with our voluntary assent of trust in others. Someone wrote, “In a majority of cases in the teaching of Jesus and the apostles the words ‘reliance’ and ‘trust’ can be used as synonyms for faith.”
I like what Augustine wrote: “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.”
Then Charles Parkhurst said: “Faith is among men what gravity is among planets and suns.”
When Dr. Paton was translating the New Testament into an island language, he found great difficulty in finding a native word for “believe” and “faith.” While at work in his study one day, one of his native teachers came in, hot and tired from a long walk. He threw himself down on a cane chair, and, putting his feet on another, used a word which meant, “I am resting my whole weight here.”
Instantly Dr. Paton had his word. The natives of that island now know faith to be an act whereby the whole weight of mind and heart is resting on Jesus.
How much faith do you give to your friends to lean upon?
III. The Joy of Friendship Includes Love
Paul is not questioning the sincere love of his converts; rather, he passionately longs to see it flaming and glowing in what Chrysostom called “unchecked madness.”
The joy of love is in action: its acid test is what one is willing to do for others.
R. P. Anderson is credited with this story: “There is an old fairy-tale about two brothers that were brought up in the same home. At last one of them left home and fell into evil ways. A magician met him, and because of his sins turned him into a wolf.
“Years later the other brother was traveling through a forest and was attacked by a wolf — his own brother. By gazing steadfastly and lovingly into the wolf’s eyes, the man had the joy of seeing the wolf-features disappear and his brother brought back to his manhood. Love is the greatest thing in the world, because it can change a man’s nature. If we do good to others we kill the animal in them and draw out the man.”
Joy comes by the friends you have in this life — and the life to come. Know the greatest friend: Jesus! (DGK)
Outlines in this issue are provided by David Mosser, Pastor of First United Methodist Church, Delcon, TX; and Derl G. Keefer, Pastor of Three Rivers Church of the Nazarene, Three River, MI.

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July 5, 1987
The Kingdom Will Succeed
(Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43)
The planners hadn’t expected such a large turnout for the “seminar.” Jesus was teaching. They had to have “Professor” Jesus in a larger space to accommodate the “class.” Moving outside was the only logical solution — so outside went students, notebooks, pens and all.
Capitalizing on the outside visual aids, Jesus launched into a lecture that included a field, good seed, weeds or tares, harvesting, and reapers — and a vengeful farmer.
His teaching style included parables. After the class ended some of the students lingered, seeking to understand the parables of the weeds.
“Teacher, could you explain this parable to us? It’s a real mystery!”
Jesus then opens up the reality of the parable to them.
His teaching included some practical lessons for us.
Lesson One: Evil seeks to destroy the good.
In a gun factory a great bar of steel, weighing five hundred pounds and eight feet in length, was suspended vertically by a very delicate chain. Nearby a common bottlecork was suspended by a silk thread. The purpose was to show that the cork could set the steel bar in motion. It seemed impossible. The cork was swung gently against the steel bar, and the steel bar remained motionless. It was done again and again for ten minutes, and at the end of that time the bar gave evidence of feeling uncomfortable; a sort of nervous chill ran over it. Ten minutes later, and the chill was followed by vibrations. At the end of half an hour the great bar was swinging like a pendulum.
No man is mighty enough, in his own energy or will, to feel secure, if he is exposed to a constantly-repeated influence for evil.
Today my own heart is heavy. One of my good friends and fellow colleagues has just surrendered his ministerial credentials. An affair has ended his career, but, just as important, a brother in Christ has fallen. It reminds us that, steadily and surely, evil will work on the best of God’s people. We must keep ourselves close to God and out of compromising situations. Clery and laity must be on guard for “Satan’s snare.”
Lesson Two: Know the difference between a weed and a seed.
We are sensible enough to know that both wheat and tares exist. Wheat, or the good seed of the kingdom, includes people who are interested in spiritual matters. They have an eye on the needs of a helpless and hopeless society; they are concerned for love, joy, peace, mercy, grace, positive attitudes, etc. That translates into practical points: a love that welcomes strangers into the group, or reaches out into a rest home, or develops a prison ministry, puts an arm around a child, encourages one to volunteer to teach a class, or work with teenagers…..
A joy that comes from knowing God and brings smiles and laughter to a sick person….. A peace that helps mediate an argument, or calms a troubled heart….. Mercy that forgives a wrong….. Grace that is open to all people….. Or a positive attitude that seizes opportunities for righteousness.
A weed is just the opposite of a seed! So major on being a seed!
Lesson Three: Judgment comes in the end.
It is not hasty, but it comes. We want to ignore it, but it steadily comes like the seconds of time.
The microscopic photograph of a typewriter letter, which revealed a broken “k,” helped a big industry win a million-dollar patent suit. The broken staff of the “k,” hardly noticeable to the naked eye, did the trick.
Not only by our words may we be condemned, but by the crossing of a “t,” the dotting of an “i,” or the inflection of a tone in pronunciation.
There is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed, unless it is blotted out by the blood of Christ.
Lesson Four: God is Judge.
God is the judge. He is the only one capable of doing it and the only one who has that right. The reason for that is that He is the one we sin against. The cross was the righteous judgment, so that God is “just and justifier of all who trust Christ” (Rom. 3:21-26).
If, as sinners, we continue to live in sin we have condemned ourselves already (John 3:17-21).
When the judgment comes and the plants have been plucked for the harvest I want to be a wheat! How about you? (DGK)
July 12, 1987
Living in the Spirit
(Romans 8:9-17)
The Holy Ghost is so called, not because He is holier than the other Persons of the Godhead, but because one of His special functions is to sanctify — that is, to cultivate holiness in man.
We cannot have the Father and the Son without the Spirit. Neither can we have the grace of Christ and the love of God without the communion of the Spirit.
The Spirit is the abiding representative of the Godhead in the heart of the believer. He is the omnipresent teacher, comforter and sanctifier. When He reveals Himself the truth is all aglow, the hearts of Christians are warmed and the consciences of sinners are awakened. When He is grieved away or His light is quenched, formalism and fear, unbelief and worldliness prevail.
If we would have the grace that is in Christ and the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, we must secure the communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit. We must live in the Spirit of God. That means several things.
I. Living in the Spirit Means Ownership by the Spirit (v. 9).
J. C. Vaughn told of a skeptic who was trying to confuse an uneducated Christian man by apparently-contradictory passages in the Bible. He asked how it could be that we were in the Spirit and the Spirit in us. The skeptic wasn’t ready for the keen insight of his “uneducated” opponent. The man replied, “Oh, there’s no puzzle ’bout that. It’s like that poker. I put it in the fire, and the fire’s in the poker.”
As Vaughn observed, a profound theologian could not have come up with a better answer!
When He’s in us He owns us. We are His to do with as He pleases, because we are in Him and He in us. Glory to God!
II. Living in the Spirit Means Righteousness and Holiness.
F. D. Huntington gave a superb definition of holiness when he stated that “holiness is religious principle put into motion. It is the love of God sent forth into circulation, on the feet, and with the hands of love to me. It is faith gone to work. It is charity coined into actions, and devotion breathing benedictions on human suffering, while it goes up in intercession to the Father of all piety.”
III. Living in the Spirit Means a Love Obligation to the Spirit (v. 12-13)
Many years ago, throughout New England and the Middle States, the sun was obscured one day without apparent reason, and night came at noon. The Connecticut Legislature was in session, and some of the members proposed an immediate adjournment. Colonel Davenport said, “I do not know whether this is the day of judgment or not. But if it is the day of judgment, it cannot overtake us at a better place than at the post of duty. Let us light the candles and go on with the business.”
I’m obliged to the Spirit for He has given me strength of participation in life. I am in love with Him. My obligation is not out of stern-faced duty, but out of a bond of love.
IV. Living in the Spirit Means We Are Heirs (p. 13-17)
Several years ago my wife and I had a will drawn up leaving all our worldly possessions to our children. They are our flesh and blood. What we have is theirs. In such a manner, all that God has is given to His children who are His heirs. How awe-inspiring and awesome to think that His resources are ours.
Let us live in the Spirit and He will live in us. (DGK)
July 19, 1987
An Invitation From Jesus
(Matthew 11:25-30)
We all have received personal invitations for some event that excites us. A thrilling invitation comes from Jesus in Matthew 11:25-30, and specifically in v. 28: “Come to me….”
I. The Who of the Invitation
Christ’s invitation to the Galileans was specifically focused but with broader significance. The salvation message was the heart and soul of the gospel presentation of Jesus. It became the theme for the New Testament writers and preachers. It remains the same today.
The circumference of the gospel message is as round as the world — “For God so loved the world (Everybody) that He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16a NIV) — but as narrow and personal as one! Me! “That whosoever (my name) believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16b).
II. The What of the Invitation
What is important about the invitation? It’s the fact of learning the twin lessons of Gentleness and Humility. No haughty, prideful spirit can come to Jesus, for that robs the person of spiritual sight and insight. Pride’s focus lands on self — never Jesus. Pride says it can determine life itself and needs no help from man or God; it earns its way to heaven while God looks on.
The Pharisees limped along at this point. They saw legalism as the vehicle to heaven. They lost sight of God’s desire for the heart. They poured everything into the law of Moses and failed to recognize the God of the law.
W. B. Yeats, the Irish poet, wrote: “Can one reach God by toil? He gives Himself to the pure in heart. He asks nothing but our attention.”
The legalism of Pharisaism oozed with pride and haughtiness; they felt they were the only true believers in God. That pride and haughty spirit sent Jesus to the cross. They could not deal with His gentle and humble spirit that loved people more than codes.
Jesus approaches us with a servant’s gentleness. As His disciples we are to emulate His actions, for He dwells in us. We don’t need to out-muscle God; we invite Him into our hearts.
Our first step to salvation is learning that we come to God in utter despair of our own merit and resources. Maybe that’s why Jesus’ first beatitude was: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
The Kingdom belongs only to the humble and gentle. That’s what we learn from Jesus!
III. The Why of the Invitation
We are burdened and weary, but Jesus came to give us rest.
Kopiao means to grow weary to the point of exhaustion. I enjoy the games of racquetball. It’s not a game for those opposed to sweat. The two, three, or four players keep their eye on the little blue ball and chase back and forth in a small court, swinging a racquet until someone misses the rubber ball. I’ve often dragged my body into the locker room unable to move another step.
The concept of “heavy laden” indicates that, at some point in past experience, a great truck-load was dumped on a worn-out person. One commentator said that weary refers to the internal exhaustion caused by seeking divine truth through human wisdom while heavy laden suggests the external burdens caused by the futile efforts of righteous works.
Out of desperation of life’s inability to work out salvation on our own, we turn to Jesus who offers and supplies rest. John MacArthur Jr. suggested that the dictionary’s offer of several definitions parallels the spiritual rest God offers those who trust in Christ.
We rest from self-help in trying to earn salvation. That rest includes a cessation from care and burdens that rob God’s people from peace and joy. Rest suggests a settled and fixed relationship. We thus have assurance of full salvation as we secure ourselves in Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior.
We also enjoy rest that gives confidence and trust to the One in whom we belong. Finally, we are able to rest on Christ — a leaning, reposing, depending upon Him. We depend upon Him to supply our needs!
IV. The When of the Invitation
The inference is Now. Why wait? The freedom or liberation is for all who will take His Yoke upon them for His Yoke is easy; someone translated that “well fitting.” Barclay translated this text as, “The life I give you to live is not a burden to gall you; your task, your life, is made to measure to fit you.”
Whatever God sends our way is made to fit our needs and abilities perfectly. God has a task for you and me which fits our measurements.
We’ve heard the old story that tells of two orphans. The older boy was carrying his lame brother on his back when a man saw them and asked, “Isn’t that a heavy burden for you to carry?” The boy quickly responded, “Naw, he ain’t heavy — he’s my brother.”
The burden which we carry is in love and is light. Now is the time to carry it. (DGK)
July 26, 1987
The Kingdom of God
(Matthew 13:44-52)
We must understand what the Kingdom of God is about if we are to be Kingdom-people. Christ’s parables draw our attention to the principles of the Kingdom.
I. The Kingdom of God is Seeking and Finding God (v. 44-46)
Some boys were constructing a shanty on the flats of the old Mystic River in Massachusetts about fifty years ago. As they dug down into the earth they hit a jar containing about $300 in old silver coins. The dates of the coins ranged from 1717 to 1838. There were coins of England, France, Greece, Spain, all of the South American countries and also American pieces. The discovery brought out an army of men who dug up the whole river bank for lost treasures, and found an additional $35 in coins. If people would only be as concerned in looking for the hidden treasures of the Kingdom of heaven!
We need to seek God in the sacrifice of the will. The Lord’s Prayer reveals that the Kingdom of God is a state in which God’s will is perfectly done as it is in heaven. To accept that sacrificial will means I must give up certain aims and ambitions, abandon certain habits, accept a discipline and a self-denial which do not come easily. It is taking up the cross and following by seeking. Once sought we find!
II. The Kingdom of God is the Gathering and Separating (v. 47-50)
The dragnet, the sagene, was a square net with cords at each corner, and weighted so that, at rest, it hung upright in the water. Then the boat began to move and the net was drawn into a shape similar to an ice cream cone; into the cone-shaped net all types and sizes of fish were swept. The net was then drawn to land, and the fishermen separated the usable from the non-usable.
This parable parallels the Kingdom’s activity. One writer emphasized that the dragnet is the total impact of the Kingdom in society, in the world, influencing people for God.
It also reinforces the fact that there is coming a day when, as the old song says, people “will be parted right and left.” The song asks, “Are you ready for that day to come?”
III. The Kingdom of God is the Retooling of God (v. 51-52)
The disciples came to Christ with their own ideas, preconceived notions of religion, philosophies and theology; Jesus needed to “retool” their concepts.
Those of us who live in the industrialized, auto-laden North understand that very well. When a product has been redesigned on the drawing boards in an office, it must be translated and put into shape at the assembly line. The machines that assemble the pieces being redesigned must themselves undergo a change in order for the product to be what the designer imagined.
When we come to Jesus He is not asking us to give up all our talents, abilities, and gifts of a lifetime. He is not suggesting we give up all our desires or intentions, our goals and aims. What Jesus demands is a “retooling.” They are no longer “my” aims, goals, desires, intents, but His! He wants to make them usable for the Kingdom — and now so do I!
We can say with the hymn, “Take my life and let it be wholly consecrated Lord to Thee.”
I want to live by the Kingdom principles. Don’t you? (DGK)
August 2, 1987
Nothing Can Separate Us
(Romans 8:31-39)
You have seen those television commercials which extol the virtues of a household epoxy cement. Just one little tube of that glue will hold up a multi-tonned truck. God’s love is like that epoxy cement. Nothing can ever loosen God’s grip on our hearts and lives.
In this passage from Romans, one of the most lyrical that Paul ever wrote, the apostle lists the many encumbrances of our world which are unable to loosen the grip of God’s love. There are no disasters great enough to separate us from the love of God.
Paul is convinced that when the world is falling apart all around us, God’s love is still powerful. In fact, when times seem at their worst, that is when God’s love brings us even closer to Him. The foundation for this thought for Paul was the phrase “He who did not spare His own Son.”
The words used by Paul are the same words used in the Old Testament to describe Abraham when he was ready to go up Mount Moriah and offer his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. Abraham was blessed because he did not spare his only son. Now, God has blessed us because God has not spared His only Son.
Examine the list of powers which Paul lists which pale to impotence before the power of God’s love.
Neither Life nor Death. The only thing more difficult for us than death is life itself. As much as we love life, as eagerly as we cling to life, neither death nor life can stand between God and us.
Neither Angels nor Principalities. The people of the New Testament saw angels everywhere. The rabbis taught that not even a blade of grass existed without an angel. No angel — not even some evil one, no conglomeration of angels — could overcome the love of God.
Neither the Present nor the Future. History was divided into this age and the age to come. This age was filled with disorder, disease, disruption. The age to come was to be the time when all those evils would be shattered and a new order established. For Paul, neither this age with all its troubles, nor the age to come with its restructuring of life can change the love of God for us.
Neither Heights nor the Depths. The stars were thought to be of great influence. Height was the influence of the star at its zenith and point of greatest power. Depth was the lowest point when the power of the star would ebb.
As James Moffatt translated these words, “nor anything else in all creation, would be able to part us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The message of hope today is that the love of God has been bonded to our spirits and our lives so permanently that we are unable to escape it or to be separated from it.
In The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, there is a list of characters given at the first of the book. This novel tells the story of the moral disintegration and the decay of a Southern family named Compson. Through all the conflict, waste, and destruction, one character stands like a tower of strength. Dilsey, the faithful servant, moves through the novel like a steady light in the gathering darkness. The list of characters at the beginning gives some brief description of each. For Dilsey, this wonderful and wise woman, Faulkner has written but two words, “She endured.”
Why and how? Dilsey had experienced the love of God. Knowing that love, she was able to give love to others, and because she was able to love, she endured.
There is a power in the love of God that make the “superglues” of this world seem as nothing. (HCP)
August 9, 1987
Do You See What I See?
(Exodus 14:19-31; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33)
In each of these scriptures there is a phrase or sentence which helps to bring them all together. The phrases have to do with seeing. There are many possible responses and circumstances in which we can see God. In the Old and the New Testament some of these responses are given.
The Exodus account is the story of the Hebrews face to face with the Red Sea, impassable before them, with the armies of Pharaoh behind them. Then, through the intervention of God, a miracle of deliverance occurred. The Hebrews were safe, they were saved.
“And Israel saw the great work which the Lord did against the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord” (Exodus 14:30).
The reading from Romans is the defense which Paul makes of the validity of his apostleship. Despite the questioning of his right to be the spokesman for the Christian faith, Paul bases his claim here, as he does elsewhere in his writing, upon the vision which he had of Christ. “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (Romans 9:1).
The gospel text is that event in which the disciples are out in the boat at night, and Jesus has gone away from them and the crowds to pray. In the last hours of the night, Jesus returns to the boat, walking on the water.
“But when the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified” (Matthew 14:26).
For the ancient Hebrews, the vision of God brought awe and fear to them. Seeing God, they had a new understanding of who Moses really was, that he was God’s servant. And they came to a new relationship to God as their Lord because of the power of God to act on their behalf.
For the disciples, it was much easier to accept Jesus as another man, another prophet. But to see Him in all His power, to see Jesus doing that which was impossible, walking on water, was a moment of terror for them.
For Paul, it was the vision of God on the road to Damascus which changed all the circumstances of his life. It was a time of seeing Jesus Christ for himself and following Him that brought the change from Saul of Tarsus to Paul the Apostle. The vision of God was the commissioning of Paul to do the work of God.
For you and I today, seeing God can lead to terror and fear, to a time of awe and worship and belief, and to a time of action.
Carol sat with her children near the front of our sanctuary. She did not pick up a hymnal. She did not look at the bulletin. She did not stand unless someone spoke and asked the congregation to stand, or one of the children touched her as they stood. Carol was blind. A genetic weakness brought blindness to her after she was an adult.
Carol remembers seeing, but even without the vision of eyes, she has a vision of life and of the power of God. Unwilling to be totally dependent, she teaches high school Spanish, and is independent, living in her own home. She has developed the sensitivity of so many who cannot see physically. And she “sees” things which others of us miss.
With God, our vision and seeing of Him, determines who we are and what we become. “Do you see what I see?” (HCP)
August 16, 1987
Ignoring the Needs
(Matthew 15:21-28)
“I didn’t know that you needed it.” My friend had borrowed a wood-working tool from me. It had not been returned. Finally I had to ask for it. His response was one all of us have made either in words or in deeds: “I didn’t know that you needed it!”
Jesus was outside the region of the Jews. A Canaanite woman came begging for help. It had been over 1,000 years since the Hebrews had crossed the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. It had been more than 1,000 years that Jews and Canaanites had lived side by side, struggling with the land, developing their faiths, following their gods.
At times, the Hebrews had been more Canaanite than Jewish. And the prophets castigated them for their turning away from the one true God.
Even 1,000 years did not erase the animosities. This woman was one of the enemy, the enemies of God Himself. And now, in her desperation, she was asking for their help. The daughter was possessed by a demon. And the mother was crying out for help. The disciples’ response to her cry was to turn to Jesus and plead with Him, “Send her away, she is bothering us!”
I. There is a Cry of Hunger Today
Are we ignoring that cry? The needs of some people in the world make the news and we become concerned for a time. But the hunger of the world continues. Children suffer from malnutrition. Families are separated by economic necessity, or spend their whole existence on the edge of dusty death because there is no feed in their setting.
In our nation, we throw away more than most people eat each day. Our garbage heaps are piled high with the remnants of our tables. And children starve.
II. There is a Cry for Friendship Today
Are we ignoring that need? The world in which we live is one in which loneliness is the most common of all human experiences. In the cities where people are almost standing on each other’s feet, there are still the lonely.
Often in our land, it is the elderly. Active lives are no longer theirs. They are confined to their homes. Despite the many places for the elderly to live, most of them are living alone in their own homes. Unable to provide transportation for themselves, they are dependent upon a family member or a friend.
Pastors who visit the homebound members of their churches realize that it is so time-consuming because those persons are lonely to talk with anyone. Those who deliver Meals-On-Wheels have to struggle to get away to their next delivery point because those who come to the door are so lonely that they want to talk even with strangers.
III. There is the Cry for Love Today
Are we ignoring this cry? Young people seek acceptance and what substitutes for love with alcohol abuse, premarital sex, and singles bars. Marriages end in divorce because they began when the search for love was unfulfilled. Harsh words are spoken to strangers because those who live on the same block or in the same building feel so unloved that only anger and hatred result.
Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem, “Love is Not All,” has the phrase, “How many are dying for lack of love?” Are we ignoring the need for caring friendships in our world and in our community?
The Canaanite woman was persistent. She did not walk away. She continued to beg, to plead. And her desire for help was finally fulfilled. The world around us will not go away. The people seeking love, and friendship, and food continue to cry out to us. Shall we answer? How long can we try to ignore their needs? (HCP)
August 23, 1987
Rocks and Rocks
(Exodus 17:1-7 and Matthew 16:13-20)
Letters did not come often from Harry. We saw each other often enough at area meetings that we kept up with each other with our personal visits. Letters seemed to be unnecessary. The letter with his return address must be important. As I read what he wrote, I began to laugh.
In our church newsletter, which Harry received, a request for a rocker for the child care room of our church had a typographical error. The request was printed seeking a “rock” for the nursery. Harry’s letter was in response to that typo, and listed all of the possible uses of a rock in the nursery class at a church.
Our texts for today both refer to “rocks.” One is the rock in the desert which was the source of water for the Hebrews when they had nothing to drink. In their thirst, they began to grumble against God, and again God saves them.
God gives Moses the directions for using the rod which struck the waters of the Nile, how to strike the the rock at Horeb. When Moses strikes, water comes forth and the people are given water to drink. The question which the children of Israel were asking was, “Is the Lord among us or not?” That rock at Horeb was the proof that God was present among His people.
God is present among us today, sturdy as a rock, unmovable as a rock, solid as a rock. And there are miracles abounding today which give us proof that God is among us providing that which gives life to His people.
Clarence Jordan tells of that ancient folk tale which explains why the Jews used rocks to stone people to execute the death sentence. They knew that they would never run out of rocks.
The story of legend was that when God had created the world, He thought that there was a need for more rocks. God sent two angels out with some rocks to scatter upon the earth. Just when they came over Judea, their sacks broke and all the rocks fell right in the Holy Land. God’s powerful presence is among us today just as generously as the rocks were and are present in the Judean hillsides.
The second text is the declaration of Jesus about Peter as the foundation of His church. On the rock evident in the confession at Caesara Philippi, the church will stand strong and sturdy. The church exists on that foundation of faith not simply for the persons inside the church, but for all persons.
John expressed it when he wrote, “God so loved the world.” The foundation rock of the congregation of God’s people is sturdy and strong so that all of the people of God’s world can be within it and on it, supported and strengthened by it.
At the meeting of church leaders, a question was asked to begin a training session: “Who is the church for anyway?” The inference was that it was for lay members and not for the sake of those who are the clergy in the congregations. One lay person present spoke almost immediately, “The church is for the members.” In that meeting, such an answer might have some validity.
The other possibility is that the church is not for either the pastors or the lay members. The church could exist for the sake of those who are not in the church.
The rock of the church is not given by God so that a few persons can be safe and secure from all the troubles of life. The rock which is the church is there in the deserts of life for those persons who are dependent upon it, who need it, who can come to it and find life. (HCP)
August 30, 1987
The Gifts of Grace
(Romans 12:1-13)
What is your gift? How are you using the gift?
Paul has outlined the foundations of the Gospel in the first eleven chapters of Romans. He has developed a complete understanding of the relationship of persons to God, individuals to Jesus Christ, and Jews to Greeks. Now, at the beginning of Chapter 12, we have a call to holy living.
It is not enough to dedicate one-self, to give one’s heart to Jesus. More is required. There is the reception of the gifts of grace which come from God. And there is the use of those gifts of grace in a significant manner.
George Washington Carver had few advantages. Born of slave parents, struggling for an education, he was one of the greatest of all the heroes of our nation because he overcame so many obstacles. The secret of his life was a simple dependence upon God.
It is told that he began each day with a prayer and question, “Lord, what do you want to accomplish through me today?” Using every gift, George Washington Carver revolutionized the agriculture of the South, and brought new standards of life to thousands.
Paul lists seven gifts as examples of the gifts of grace. You and I know that these are not all the gifts of God’s grace, but the list can spark our imagination with the other gifts we have received from the bounty of God’s love.
Prophecy, the ability to tell about the will and purpose of God; service, the ability to help others; teaching, the gift of explaining and propounding truth so that it is remembered and used; exhortation, the proclaiming of a new life for persons which results in change; contributing, the use of all our resources, particularly our money; giving aid, helping with the resources which we have so that others find a new future; and acts of mercy, the gift of supporting grace for others, are in Paul’s list. In our churches, there are many other gifts which God has provided for the benefits of His world.
The key is the use of those gifts. Gifts that are unopened and unused are not really gifts. As surely as God gives the gifts of grace, it is necessary for us to use them well. One must do what one can do, and do it to the best of one’s ability.
Years ago, I determined to write. For years, I did it in snatches of time. Although that gift was present, I did not use it well. Then, determined to make the most of that gift of God, I set time aside each day to write, to train myself, to use that gift and skill.
I have not become a prize-winning author. I am hardly known as a writer at all, but the gift is being used, and letters come to me from persons of many backgrounds and locations about something which I have written.
Gifts must be used. The gifts of God’s grace must be used or they shall disappear. (HCP)
Outlines are provided by Derl G. Keefer, Three Rivers Church of the Nazarene, Three Rivers, MI, and Harold C. Perdue, First United Methodist Church, San Angelo, TX.

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