Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Traveling Carpenter

The Traveling Carpenter
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 27, 2009 AM

A weary traveler comes into view, sets his one piece of odd-looking luggage and a carpenter's long metal tool box down, and sits heavily down on a long row of chairs of a nondescript airport waiting area. He sighs big, checks his pockets, finds something to eat in them, and opens up a granola bar and begins to eat it. Looking around he discovers that he isn’t alone and addresses the audience.

(He is busily checking all of his pockets for his airplane tickets.) I know I put those airline tickets somewhere in my pockets, but which one? Gosh, Mama is gonna be mad at me if I lost them and then there will be the hassle of going to the ticket counter and getting them reissued… (Finds the tickets folded up in his hat band.) Oh… silly me… there they are! I am getting more absent minded everyday! Now, where did I put that airport map… Oh well… I will look on the wall or ask someone for directions.

Airports! They are all the same. The same uncomfortable chairs to sit and wait for your flight, the same non-descript colors for the walls, the same irritating patterns in the carpet… (Looking down at the floor he realizes...) Oh, wait… that’s not a pattern that’s supposed to be there is it? It must be someone’s left over whatever it is… (He pulls out a granola bar from his coat pocket and begins chewing on it a bit and smiles.) Like I said, “Airports… the same everywhere you go!”

My name is Jake. It is short for Jacob. I bet you are wondering why I am traveling on a day like today? (Motions with his hands…) Oh, I am sorry you probably do not want to be bothered by the meanderings of an old man on his way back to the job site from his son’s house. (He sits back in his chair, looks around, and begins again…)

I bet you wonder what is with the long metal box I am carrying. (Points to a carpenter’s tool box on the floor.) You probably have not seen one of those before have you? Not too many folks use them anymore, but I still do. (He leans over and pats the box by his feet.) Well, let me tell you… it is full of carpenter tools. But these are not just any carpentry tools. These tools are ones that have been handed down from generation to generation in my family.

I am a simple carpenter. (Thumps his chest and expansively motions with his hands…) My father was a simple carpenter and his father before him was a simple carpenter. Even my son is a simple carpenter! Well, you get the idea. In fact, (Points to the toolbox.) that rusty old box was my father-in-laws before it was mine! We are all simple carpenters in my family on both sides! And, let me tell you that in this economy there isn’t a lot of work for carpenters, but we find a few jobs here and there and that is why I am traveling. (Brushes crumbs off of his coat.) I am headed back to my job site from my son’s house. We spent Christmas together. He lives in Bethlehem, PA with his wife and young boy.

(Muses to himself a little bit.) My son, Joe… What a nice young man, even if he is my son… So serious, so faithful to the Lord, and steady - like a rock (Holds up his fist.) that boy is, let me tell you! Do you have children? Yes? No? Well, they can be both a blessing and or a curse, depending upon what time of the year it is or when they need something or not… I am just kidding, because my children are all special! And, I believe all children are special. Or, at least they should be, right?

These times are kind of hectic for everyone, but you should have been with Mama and I when we heard Joe, that’s my son, tell us that his fiancée was pregnant. I know, I know… children today! What are you going to do? Getting pregnant out of wedlock, breeding like… well you know. And who suffers? Everybody does! The parents! (Pats his chest with his free hand, notices the granola bar and takes a bite.) The children that are born! And all of society! My own little town was agog when they heard the news about Joe and Mary, that’s my son’s fiancée, well… wife now. Their tongues could not wag fast enough, let me tell you! And then there are the children that are not raised by two loving parents that are… MARRIED! They suffer because they have no foundation that is secure in their lives. But I am getting excited and you do not want to hear me prattle on about the ills of society, my family, or their root causes.

But good old Joe, that’s my boy… did I tell you that already? He went ahead and married the girl and they now have a beautiful baby boy. His name is Josh. Strong, healthy, and… guess what? He is going to be a carpenter as well! We could not believe it when Joe related that he had not gotten Mary pregnant but that he had spent time speaking to God about it and was satisfied that he needed to go ahead and marry Mary anyway. (Looks a little confused at his choice of words.) He was ashamed but realized that he had to be a real man, become a husband, and a father. After all, Josh was his responsibility!

Mama and I were at first incredulous! We were hurt because we thought we had raised Joe right. Then we learned that little Josh wasn’t even his baby and yet he was willing to take on this entire family for his own! But Joe assured us that he knew what he was doing and that Mary was willing as well. And now they have the most beautiful baby boy… Oh, I did tell you that already didn’t I? (Reaches into his back pocket for his wallet and pulls it out.) Did I show you a photograph? Oh, I know most grandparents are proud of their grandchildren, but let me tell you Josh is something special! See there he is… (Pulls out and points to a photo to the audience, in his wallet, of a baby boy.) And, look at those big brown eyes… so full of wisdom… so full of curiosity… so full of mischief! (Smiles and puts the photo back into his wallet.) He is going to be someone special, let me tell you!

Do you know that God can use any situation, even if it begins poorly, for His good? The Apostle Paul related that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV) God has certainly done so with Joe, Mary, and Josh. But of course you have to be willing to allow Him to be the Lord of your life like they have.

I just got through celebrating Christmas with them. (Sits up and realizes…) Say! (Snaps his fingers.) Hah! I never realized it before but they are kind of like the Holy family in the Bible… Sure! Sure! You know what I mean don’t you? There was Mary and Joseph and Jesus… shepherds and Wisemen or something… Well, maybe not exactly like them but similar. By golly! (Wonderingly.) I never realized that before and they were CARPENTERS too! Wow! Imagine that! Kind of gives a person pause doesn’t it? And here I am all frustrated about airports, family, and traveling when the Messiah’s family faced far worse obstacles back then.

Man, (Sits back down on the bench of chairs.) I had almost forgotten that story and here it is the Christmas season and all. Isn’t that just like us busy folks running around so full of activity with the holidays that we forget what they are all about! (Reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a small New Testament and begins to read from Luke’s Gospel.)

The Scriptures tell us that “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7 NIV)

Isn’t that amazing? Just like my little family, sort of… Well of course Joe and Mary moved to Bethlehem for work and no one followed a star to where Josh was born in the local hospital! And I do not think there are very many Wisemen in Bethlehem these days looking to give gifts away to a newborn baby! More like wise guy politicians wanting to steal your hard-earned gold, frankincense and myrrh from your pocket!

It is good for us to remember the original family that traveled so long ago to the first Bethlehem and the baby that was born there who was the Son of God, who would take away the sins of the entire world. And this world sure could use that right now!

Well, I think they just announced my flight leaving. (Puts the rest of his granola bar back into his coat pocket and picks up his bag.) Where am I going? Why… I am going to Jerusalem! No, not in the Middle East but in Jerusalem, Ohio! Hey! That’s kind of amusing too isn’t it!? The Lord sure works in funny ways doesn’t He? Well, you have a blessed New Year! I’ve got to catch my flight! (Grabs his bag and carpenter’s box and heads off.)
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yacob, the Simple Carpenter

Yacob, the Simple Carpenter
12-13-09 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

(We find an older man, dressed in carpentry clothes, busily working in his shop, and singing to himself.) Yehovah is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He guides me in His righteousness…

Good morning! Shalom! May the Lord bless you! Welcome to my carpentry shop! My name is Yacob. I do all kinds of carpentry work! What do you need today? Just looking for some good sturdy furniture? I can do that! I am but a simple carpenter. My father was a simple carpenter, his father was a simple carpenter, and… well… you get the idea. (Expansively.) We are all simple carpenters! We have a long history of being carpenters. But I can make almost anything you would need!

Do you need a table? A chair? Perhaps you need a cradle?

Do you have children? I do. A son. Yoseph. Do they follow in your footsteps? Do they want to do what you do for a living? Is there a heritage there, as is in my family? Children, they are our future, our hope, and a source of much stress and sleepless nights! But we love them, right? And they should honor their parents! I ask you, therefore, is it wrong for me to want my son to become a carpenter as well?

I have been building things all my life. Using my skills with wood, stone, reeds, and other materials to make furniture, utensils, roofs, and just about anything anyone needed. (Sands the piece of wood in his hands and blows the sawdust off of it.)

(Longingly.) My one hope was that my son Yoseph would be a carpenter too! But the young these days! (Throws up his hands.) How can you get them to do anything!? They want everything right now without putting in the time to build and develop their homes, families, and their "traditional" occupations.

When he was younger he would come into my carpenter shop and play with the sawdust and tools. He would watch me for hours learning the trade of his father. (Proudly pats his chest.) And in this he became a very good carpenter himself. Sensitive to the way differing wood works, the grain of it and the feel of it, how stone is to be used, and how to make the differing weaves for furniture and such. Just when (Holds up piece of wood he is working on and shakes it.) I thought he was able to take over the family business, this other business happens! (Sadly shakes his head.) Oh, Yoseph what have you done?

Have your children done anything that surprised you or disappointed you? Oh? Perhaps, you understand then.

Did I tell you that he met the most wonderful girl? No? A village girl, a local young woman named Miriam. A wonderful girl. A beautiful girl! A gem of a girl! So full of life, devout, and very supportive of Yoseph! But now, (Chokes back a sob.) she is with child. She claims her pregnancy is through the power of the Holy Spirit, is of God, and the baby will be a boy! But, not just any boy, mind you, but the promised Messiah! the Messiah! What was I to believe!

My wife was devastated… as was I. Our dreams, our plans, our hopes were all dashed in a moment. (Shakes piece of wood.) I can tell you that we were both hurt and incredulous! Miriam's story was unbelievable! How could this possibly happen in our day and age of enlightenment? Miriam came sobbing and contrite to us wanting us to believe her. She related how an angel of God had come to her and that she herself had been doubtful, but that the angel had assured her that is was true! How could we believe such nonsense?

But then, Yoseph came that very week and told us that he too had been given a vision of God in a dream, telling him to go ahead and take Miriam as his beloved bride. At first we thought he was covering up for his own sinful transgressions with Miriam, but he was resolute. His conviction and that of Miriam's soon convinced us that what they told us was definitely…, incredulously…, and yet… wonderfully true! Yoseph had at first sought to comfort Miriam and to put her away quietly as to not cause her undo harm in the community, but now that God had shown him as well, he stoutly stood at her side and decided to continue with the marriage and betrothal. "It is the will of God," he reminds us.

Today, they are leaving us though… (Sadly.) Caesar, (Spits and curses Caesar.) may there be a pox on his household, in his infinite governmental wisdom wants more of our money and so we will all have to go to the city of our ancestors to register for the new census. It is all a ruse to just steal more from our pockets! My wife and I will not have to go because we have designated Yoseph as the head of our household now. So, he and Miriam… little pregnant Miriam… will take the long dangerous trek to Bethlehem to register there. I am worried because they are getting a late start and may not find anywhere to stay. It is so close to Jerusalem and there are bandits on the road, thugs, thieves, and robbers. (Clasps his hands together.) May He who loves us watch over them as they journey.

I have given him a little something extra, just in case, in order to pay for a good clean dry room. (Confidently.) I am sure they will be alright. They are both young and resourceful. Yoseph is level-headed, and Miriam will make sure he makes good choices. (Goes back to sanding the piece of wood.)

I have assured his mother that everything will be fine and they will be in no danger… (Looks up.) May He who cares for His own, watch over His little ones who journey so far away from home and family... But then, (Smiles meekly.) Miriam is carrying a boy, the promised Messiah! (Looks around and kind of whispers.) And… his name… will be Yeshua because he will save his people! Can you imagine that? I know that if Miriam is carrying the promised Messiah of the Almighty, then He, who watches over His flock like a shepherd, will not allow anything to happen to them out of the ordinary. Well, more than has already happened! Right?

(Looks up. Dusts himself off.) Where are my manners? (Calls off stage.) Mama! We have company! A customer! Come and help… (Looks down and then again far off.)I know God will take care of Yoseph and Miriam… and the little one she carries that comes to save His people Israel... (Smiles.) Come, come let us sit awhile and talk of carpentry and the furniture you need, shall we? After all, I am but a simple carpenter…
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Of Pigs, People, and Demons - Mark 5:1-20

Of Pigs, People, and Demons - Mark 5:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 6, 2009 AM

When we are presented with facts and figures we retain only about 5% of what we are taught. However, when we are given illustrations or parables, like Jesus used, we retain about half of them. If we become emotionally connected to the illustration used, we retain even more of the information given to us. This is why we remember stories like the one we are going to read today. The healing of a man that is totally out of control because of the demons in his life, frightens us, intrigues us, and helps us to indentify with him because we all fight some demonic influences in our lives. Seeing him completely healed gives us hope and a certainty in life.

Last week we learned about how Jesus calms the storms of life. In this section we will look at today we will discover that after Jesus calms the storm-blown waves that frightened his disciples, he is faced with the personal storm of an individual whose daily routine was directed by the demons of his life. We find that the folks around this pathetic individual are more concerned with their economy than with an individual’s personal hell, and we find the striking facts of demonic activity that is very real. It is a tale of pigs, people, and demons. Let’s find out more as we investigate this section of Scripture.

READ: Mark 5:1-20

The characters in a tale are important because they tell the story. Like the guilt-ridden Scrooge in Dickens' A Christmas Carol and his personal redemption. This retelling by Mark is no different because in it we discover several important players. Therefore:

I. Let’s look at the people involved…

1. There is no greater power than that of God himself in Jesus Christ! We find Jesus with his disciples getting out of their little storm-tossed boat after crossing the Sea of Galilee. Of course, Jesus is always in control of the situation wherever he is no matter what the circumstances. Immediately he is confronted when he gets “out of the boat." Mark relates that "a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him.” There is no time for rest or respite from the previous storm. Jesus is thrown right back into ministry. Mark relates, “This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain.” We learn that “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 5:3-5) Something was drastically wrong with this storm-tossed person! Curiously, when he sees Jesus he falls at Jesus’ feet and shouts: “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!” We discover he is possessed. Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." Evil, wrapped in a warped human being, is confronted by God in human flesh. Where a Legion once had partial control, they have already lost as soon as Jesus stepped on shore. However, not everyone ends up happy about the ultimate outcome of the demon-possessed person. The villagers whose livelihood is drowned are not glad about their pigs. We find that “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.” What is their response? Well, “the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” (Mark 5:15-17) Yet the man who had been held prisoner for so long “went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” There is no greater power than that of God himself in Jesus Christ!

EXAMPLE: Who knows why the man became demon possessed. Perhaps he needed attention and looked for personal relationships in the wrong places. Perhaps he had suffered as a child, longed for acceptance, and tried to get it in the wrong way. Maybe he was poor and sought to feed his family or himself through ill-gotten means. He could have wanted to have some fun and began to hang around the wrong people, whom he thought were his friends, but turned out to be abusive and users. Looking for inner peace, he could have been caught in occultic paganism. Whatever it was, we find people opening the doors to demonic influence in their lives today in the very same ways. Escape is found only through the authority of Jesus Christ in a person’s life. There is no greater power than that of God himself in Jesus Christ.

In our day of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and political correctness, we are amazed that this story is filled with some poor swine that get kind of the short shrift. However, they as well as those minions of darkness that are cast into them play an important role as well. Therefore:

II. Let’s look at the pigs and the demons involved…

1. The porcine of Satan meet a premature providence! We can feel for the pigs that really had no control over the circumstances of the possessed man nor of their ultimate fate. However, we have to remember that in Hebraic thinking, pigs were unclean and whatever happened to these hapless hogs was their own fault. I believe the demons requested the most vile and unclean thing they could readily think of to use as the means of their destruction. That's the way demonic influence works. It degrades those it tries to control. Sadly, too many in our day and age either do not believe there is demonic influence or they give too much credence and authority to Satan himself. Never forget, he is a created being. Interestingly, we discover something about demonic-control over an individual from this account. First, we find that it is limited. Notice the man still had enough personal resistance to go and beg at the feet of Jesus. He was not a complete automaton to the demons that influenced his life. In fact, Scripture makes it plain that Satan himself has to ask permission of God or have the tacit permission of the person involved. Satan had to ask permission from God to act in the lives of both Job and Peter (Job 6:1-11; Luke 22:3). The unsaved have to willingly yield to him and allow him to influence their lives as well like in Ananias and Sapphria or Peter's denial. (Mark 8:33 & Acts 5:3) Satan can gain permission to act in people's lives when they willing decide to disobey God and do evil. However, the believer has the Holy Spirit and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) This is why Peter reminds us to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) Secondly, we realize that Satan is not in charge, Jesus is. Jesus would declare, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” (Luke 10:18) in reference to his authority over him. Satan is not the king or ruler of hell, hell is reserved for his eternal punishment! (Revelations 12:9-10 & 20:10) Jesus was and is in complete control. We find that “The demons begged Jesus, ‘Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.’” Jesus, in his authority, gives “them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs.” Finally, Satan has no hold on a believer. We find the once enslaved man now begging "to go with” Jesus. The “man who had been possessed by the legion of demons” was now “dressed and in his right mind.” He is changed and becomes a tremendous testimony for the Lord and relates just “how much Jesus had done for him.” Satan, nor any of his demons, has any influence in the life of a believer.

EXAMPLE: Satan is totally deceptive and we now live in the age that relishes deception. Redefining marriage, relationships, sex, or even our Christian witness to the world. Satan camouflages himself in some of the freedoms we enjoy. The freedoms to say, live, and do almost anything we deem “legal.” While some things may be seen by society as legal that does not necessarily make them moral or ethical. Satan lives in the homosexual movement, the music and movie industry, and in a woman’s right to choose. He is also alive and well in the idea of political correctness, some environmentalism, and the emergent church movement. His heresy knows no boundary. He whispers to the believer that it is okay for this relationship, to mark or mutilate your flesh, or to say or do anything -- as long as it is in the name of Jesus -- it is "moral." Yet, all these things are not his kingdom, because he has none. His power only exists as mankind allows him to influence their lives. Jesus has totally dethroned him. He only has influence in the life of a believer, as we would allow him to oppress us with his ungodliness, or when we acquiesce to his worldview. We can be free when we “resist him, standing firm in the faith.”

Conclusion:

Today we looked at the people, the pigs, and the demons involved in this story of the demoniac.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jesus Calms Life’s Storms - Mark 4:35-41

Jesus Calms Life’s Storms - Mark 4:35-41
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 29, 2009 AM

If you have never been out in the open ocean during a raging storm you have no idea what true fear can be like. The closest thing to experiencing this kind of fear would be to watch the movie “The Perfect Strom” which was taken from the book about the 1991 perfect storm that hit the North American coast in October 1991, and features the crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail, based out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. The crew was lost 575 miles at sea during the severe conditions while fishing for Marlin. Also in the book and movie is the story about the rescue of the three-person crew of the sailboat Satori in the Atlantic waters during the storm, by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa. The weather created huge towering waves described as being 7 to 10 stories tall! How would you calm a storm like that?

Our lives can have perfect storms as well. Storms created by conditions of our own making, illnesses, or the conditions of the sin-stained world around us. We often forget that we live in a world where our lives are the "perfect storm" of sin and worldly acquiescence where far too many churches want people to feel comfortable rather than confront the sin-storm of their lives. However, we discover that Jesus came to calm life's storms. Let see what that means for us today...

READ: Mark 4:35-41

Our world has created an environment where you can never escape its influence. Cell phones, computers, GPS devices, and the Internet text and twitter every aspect of our existence now. You cannot escape being videoed at your bank, grocery store, post office, or doctor's office! You are even watched on the highway and most street corners. All of this has made it harder for folks to shut out all the noise of the world in order to discover God for themselves. Electronics have even invaded our worship! How do we escape this manmade storm of life? We discover that…

I. Jesus calms life's storms when you leave the crowd behind! (Vv. 35-36)

1. Often, the only way to discover Jesus is to get away from those whom distract you most! We find Jesus' disciples getting their stuff together and deliberately leaving the crowds behind. Crowds can be family, friends, and co-workers and they, without meaning too, can demand a lot out of us. Often the only way to begin to think clearly is to leave them behind, as does Jesus and his disciples. Mark eyewitness rendering relates "That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, 'Let us go over to the other side.'" The "other side" was the other shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus takes the initiative with his closest followers to get away. Jesus will go to "the other side" of the Sea of Galilee at least four more times in Mark's gospel! (Mark 5:21; 6:45; 8:13; & 8:18) He often did this in order to calm the storms of life that surrounded him and in order to reorient himself to his father's will. He goes off alone to pray, he goes off alone to minister, he goes off alone to meditate on his father's will. Jesus' leaving the demands of the crowds behind influenced those he discipled as well! We find that those who cared about Jesus the most, left "the crowd behind" and "they took him along, just as he was, in the boat." Maybe they saw he was weary of teaching the unbelieving hoards. Perhaps Jesus was exhausted of healing the uncaring crowd and his disciples see this and take Jesus to where he can calm the storms of life. And, notice that "There were also other boats with him." The crowds are never far away no matter how hard we try, but it is good to allow Jesus to calm our storms by leaving the crowds behind. When was the last time you got away from the crowd to reconnect with Jesus?

EXAMPLE: It can be tough to get away from the crowds of our lives that demand so much of us. I know of one mother who would lock herself in the bathroom in order to find some time alone with the Lord. She would tell her family that no one was to bother her while she was in there each day. It was kind of humorous when her little girl told her first grade teacher that her mommy often locked herself in the bathroom! Crowds can require a lot from us each day and they are not easily turned, just ask any cowboy that has had to head off a stampede, or some Black Friday shoppers! And this is why there are times when one has to get away from the crowd. We find that Jesus calms life's storms when we leave the crowd behind!

The weird waves of the worldly culture can overwhelm us easily with violence, sexuality, and perversion. The other night as I watched the American Music Awards I was reminded of the total depravity of the music industry and how it can suck the life out of the people caught in its clutches. Michael Jackson, who exemplified a pathetic life, received several awards. Lady Gaga was onstage dressed in her latest weirdness and Adam Lambert was the quintessential pervert with his actions. But it is not just the AMAs, but in every area of our society we have been swamped with an ungodly onslaught. Where do we find answers for life? Here in Mark's gospel we discover that…

II. Jesus calms life's storms when he is in control! (Vv. 37-39)

1. The whirlwinds of life are all under the control of Christ! We find that as they cross over to the other side of the lake "A furious squall" comes up, and "the waves" brake "over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped." The boats used on the Sea of Galilee were not very big. They were simple wooden flat bottomed shallow draft craft no larger than 30 by 8 feet. So, when this rather forceful storm suddenly comes up, it would have been very alarming to the disciple fishermen. The terminology is that of a mega whirlwind! A rapid storm that comes off of Mt Hermon, rushes down the Jordan Valley, and whooshes into the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is 682 feet below the Mediterranean Sea. These sudden storms continue to this day on the lake. And notice "Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion!" Can you imagine? The disciples wake him up and ask him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" Now I find it interesting that those in the boat immediately turn to a sleeping Jesus! Why is it that when the storms of life hit hardest, that is when many suddenly turn to Jesus for help, then as soon as the winds die down and the calm waters return they neglect him altogether? Jesus depicts for us the peace of God in the life of one who completely trusts in him who controls the turbulent waves of life. Many love to quote Peter's admonishment to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7 NIV) and neglect the previous verse that says "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (v. 6) Notice that when the disciples run to Jesus, "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 NIV) Jesus calms life's storms when he is control! When was the last time you humbled yourself and allowed Jesus total control of your stormy life?

EXAMPLE: Franklin Roosevelt boldly stated in his first inaugural address to "let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." He was correct. Fear can unreasonably paralyze us into inaction. The news of cancer, loss of a job, or the a death of someone close can all create squalls in life that swamp our life's little boat. But for the believer there is always hope on the horizon in the midst of the storm. Just as the Psalmist sang, "I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalms 121:1-4 NIV) Even though in his humanity Jesus slumbered, God did not, and in him Jesus was in complete control just as he is now in your life. Jesus calms life's storms when he is in control. Is Jesus in control of your life?

With unemployment at 10% and those who have given up looking for work at about 20%, with a huge 12 trillion dollar debt, an out of control Congressional budget, and a President that seems disconnected, times look bleak as the waves of fear and distrust wash over us in America. Many wonder in what or in whom can we place our trust in times like these? When we read the words of Mark we find a new the comfort of God as found in his Son Jesus Christ. In fact, we discover that…

III. We never need to fear when Jesus calms life's storms! (Vv. 40-41)

1. When you have the Creator of the wind and waves in your boat, you will never sink! Sadly, the ultimate truth still had not dawned on the disciples that God’s authority and power were present in Jesus. They hurriedly run to his quiet sleeping form and whine at him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" I kind of like his response. He rather curtly rebukes them by asking them about their cowardly actions and their lack of faith: "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They could kind of comprehend Jesus being the Messiah, but did he also have control over creation? And, of course the answer is a resounding, "YES!" When Jesus stilled the storm, there should have been no doubt as to who he was. But instead of trusting Jesus the disciples replace one fear for another kind: "They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'" Egad, are these simple fisher folk dense or what? Yet we can display the same kind of cowardly replacement fear in our own lives as well. Here's what I mean: We want Jesus to clam life's storms, we say we believe in who he is and what he can do, then when he desires to work in our lives to do something only he can do, we become frightened of the prospect! We reject Jesus' total control of the situation. We want to pull it back so that we can control the outcome! Yet, when we do, God is no longer at work in the circumstances. We are with our cowardly fear are just like those disciples. Did they really think that the one who came to save the world, would unexpectedly die on a lake in a storm-swapped boat? Either God is in control or he is not. Either Jesus is with us or he is not! He certainly was present in that fishing boat! And folks, cowardly fear is no substitute for the power and presence of Jesus in our lives! We never need to fear when Jesus clams life's storms!

EXAMPLE: Few of us have suffered the storm in life that H. G. Spafford and his wife did. One day in 1873 he stood on the quayside in Chicago and bid farewell to his family as they set sail to visit relatives in far off Europe. He was not to realize that he would never see most of them again. Some days later their ship, bound for Le Havre in France collided with another steamship in mid-Atlantic, and sank almost immediately. Before it did so, however, Mrs. Spafford was able to have a prayer with her children and commit them to the mercy of the Lord. That was the last time she would ever see them on this earth. Fortunately, a lifeboat spotted Mrs. Spafford and she was rescued. When she arrived in Britain, with the rest of the survivors, she sent her husband this terse, but telling message: "SAVED ALONE." Three years after that tragedy, Mr. Spafford wrote his hymn: " When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul! It is well ... with my soul! It is well, it is well, with my soul." We never need to fear when Jesus calms life's storms.

Conclusion:
1) Jesus calms life's storms when you leave the crowd behind, 2) Jesus calms life's storms when he is in control, and 3) we never need to fear when Jesus clams life's storms!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Kingdom Parables – Mark 4:26-34

The Kingdom Parables – Mark 4:26-34
by Pastor Lee Hemen
November 22, 2009 AM

In the hymn "In the Sweet Bye and Bye," it tells us that "There's a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we can see it afar; For the Father waits over the way, to prepare us a dwelling place there. In the sweet Bye and bye, we shall meet on that beautiful shore. In the sweet, Bye and bye, we shall meet on that beautiful shore. We shall sing on that beautiful shore, the melodious songs of the blest, and our spirits shall sorrow no more; not a sigh for the blessing of rest." It is a wonderful hymn that tries to describe for us the wonders of heaven. Sadly, there are those who confuse the wonders of heaven with God’s kingdom here and now. We would do well in understanding the differences and why it is important for us to do so.

It is no wonder that we have all wondered what heaven might be like. The Apostle John tried to relate what he saw when he was given a small glimpse of the heavenly realm in the book of Revelation. And, we find that he is trying to describe a perfectly holy and wonderful place with sin-stained eyes. In fact we find that for centuries scholars have been trying to figure out just exactly what the symbolism is behind the words of John. But when Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God in the gospels he often was not referring to heaven itself. Instead, we find that he is relating what God's kingdom was and is like and how it will be established in our world. Let's take a look at the kingdom parables this morning...

READ: Mark 4:26-34

Jesus again goes to what he knows and is familiar with and what his audience would know and be familiar with as well. He pulls from his memory the idea of how to relate the kingdom of God to those who would understand his earthy metaphors that symbolized spiritual concepts. In doing so Jesus answers for us the question we have wondered about concerning what the kingdom of God is like. Let’s take a closer look at the kingdom parables of Jesus. We fist discover that...

I. The kingdom of God is like scattered seed! (Vv. 26-29)

1. From the hands of the sower the seed is strewn! Jesus relates that "This is what the kingdom of God is like." We learned before that "scattered seed" can grow in many different conditions, however, here we find that "night and day, whether" the one scattering it "sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how." In fact, that is not the sower’s concern. It is not his concern to make the seed grow nor how it grows. God germinates it. The kingdom of God grows from one small seed, one kernel of gospel truth, planted or "scattered" in the life of a person. It then sprouts and grows in the person’s life it is planted in. It also grows in the community it is scattered around. It is through the power the Holy Spirit that the seed grows and in this it remains a mystery to the one who first planted it. Why? Again, we are not the ones who cause it to grow only God does. In fact, the seed had to become intrinsically part of the person by faith. To literally die and be buried in the life of the person before it could germinate. Interestingly, the individual in whom the gospel seed is planted has to die to self before it can grow! As Paul would declare, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 NIV) We also discover that just like at the beginning of the spiritual process, at the end, during our final resurrection in Christ, we first have to die and then we are made alive again in him! Paul would say, "When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else… So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable!" (1 Corinthians 15:37 & 42) And, notice here in Mark that "All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head." In a community the seed planted soon begins to produce a crop. When the gospel seed is planted in the kingdom of God, it germinates, grows, and produces a crop for the ultimate harvest. In fact, Jesus related that "As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." Surely the kingdom of God is like scattered seed!

EXAMPLE: Seeds can be scattered in many ways. Some seeds are scattered by the wind, some are carried away by birds and insects, some float in water, others are forced away from the plant by exploding pods, and still others hitchhike on animals and people. An example of a seed that travels by water would be the coconut seed. A coconut has a thick outer shell and is light-weight inside, which allows it to float for up to several months. When the coconut finally arrives on dry land, it is cracked open by animals or it rots, releasing the seed inside. An example of a hitchhiking seed would be a burdock. A burdock is covered with a spiky shell that sticks to passing animals and people. In this way the seeds are taken to a new location to grow. Maple seeds are carried by the wind. They fall off the tree and can be blown for many miles because they are light-weight. Dandelions are also scattered this way. The last method of scattering seeds is explosion. Some plants have seeds contained in large pods. When the pod burst open the seeds are sent flying through the air. Milkweed scatters its seeds this way. Christians are the way God scatters the gospel seed in the kingdom of God. And the kingdom of God grows from one small seed planted in the heart of an individual willing to believe.

Big things often do come in small packages. In this case a very beautiful and wonderful thing begins as something very small but results in something quite large. Jesus says it is the kingdom of God. How is that possible? Well, we just learned that the kingdom of God is like scattered seed, but Jesus continues and teaches his listeners that…

II. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed! (Vv. 30-34)

1. From the tiniest of things, great things can come! Again, Jesus asks, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?" Jesus does something quite wonderful when he next uses one of his kingdom parables. He beautifully relates to his listeners in a way they could readily understand what he was talking about by using a common plant of the field. He begins the parable with a clever double-question introduction in order to draw the listener into his thought process concerning God's kingdom. He then relates, in essence, that the appearance of God’s "kingdom" is similar to what happens to "a mustard seed" after it is scattered on "the ground." In Hebrew thought, the tiny mustard seed's size was proverbial since it was "the smallest" of all familiar seeds. It took 725-760 mustard seeds to weigh a single gram! The mustard bush is an annual plant which, growing from seed, "becomes the largest of all garden plants" in Palestine, rapidly reaching a height of 12-15 feet in just a few weeks. Jesus alluded that the "Birds of the air" are not only attracted by its seeds but also by the "shade" of its large "branches". His kingdom parable emphasizes the contrast between the smallest of the seeds growing into "the largest of all garden plants." Therefore the insignificant, even enigmatic beginning of God’s kingdom, embodied in the mere presence of Jesus, will ultimately end with the establishment of the greatest kingdom of all which will surpass all the earthly kingdoms in power and glory. And, when you, one small insignificant human being, gives your life to Jesus by faith and allow the kingdom "mustard seed" to be implanted in your heart, you become part of God's gigantic kingdom! Truly, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed!

EXAMPLE: Mustard was formerly made up into balls with honey or vinegar and a little cinnamon, to keep till needed, then they were mixed with more vinegar. It was sold in balls till Mrs. Clements, of Durham, England on July 10, 1720, invented the method of preparing mustard flour or powder, which long went under the name of 'Durham Mustard'. All parts of the mustard plant are edible, including the leaves, seeds and flowers. Pope John XXII was so fond of mustard that he created a new Vatican position, the 'grand moutardier du pape' (mustard-maker to the pope) and appointed his nephew to the post. Mustard plants produce about 1,000 pounds of seeds per acre. In one year at New York's Yankee Stadium more than 1,600 gallons plus 2,000,000 individual packets of mustard are consumed. Canada produces about 90 percent of the world's supply of mustard seeds. George J. French introduced his French's mustard in 1904, the same year that the hot dog was introduced to America at the St. Louis World's Fair. And the use of mustard is recorded in the earliest of all societies! Hebrew legend relates that Abraham used mustard in the Old Testament while entertaining the visiting angels. The Chinese used mustard for thousands of years. So did the ancient Romans, and it was the Romans who spread the use of mustard to France and England as their empire expanded. Over 700 million pounds of mustard are consumed worldwide each year and Americans use more mustard than any other country in the world. Ben Franklin first visited England not as a diplomat but as a young man seeking a printing apprenticeship. He didn't find it, but he did apparently discovered mustard, then as now used as a condiment on beef and other typically English fare. Appreciating its spicy tang, he did in fact introduce it to the American colonies on his return. So even though he didn't invent mustard, hot dog lovers across the country can say a hearty "thank you" to old Ben for bringing us mustard. Wow! All of that out of one tiny seed! No wonder Jesus said the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed!

Conclusion:

In his parables of the kingdom of God Jesus said that 1) The kingdom of God is like scattered seed, and 2) The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed! From tiny thing like the gospel truth comes the eternal and growing kingdom of God!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Measuring Your Light Speed – Mark 4:21-25

Measuring Your Light Speed – Mark 4:21-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 15, 2009 AM

I loved physics in school, especially the labs. It was fascinating to set up experiments. One of the labs we had to do was measure how fast is the speed of light. The speed of light is approximately 186,000 miles per second or exactly 299,792,458 meters per second. The web site instructables.com teaches you how to measure it in your kitchen using a large bar of chocolate, a microwave, and a metric ruler. You take the turntable out of the microwave, place the chocolate bar, usually only three squares of a large bar, inside on a paper plate, and turn the microwave on high and wait for pools of melted chocolate to form. Zap the chocolate for about 40 to 50 seconds. Then carefully take the chocolate out and measure between hotspots with the metric ruler. When you measure between hotspots it represents the half wavelengths of light. You multiply this number by two, and then multiply that answer by the frequency of your microwave. This is usually 2,450,000,000 hertz or 2.45 gigahertz. That will give you the speed in centimeters per second.

However, the speed of the light of the gospel is instantaneous in that its message is always available and immediate in its impact on the life of an individual. Mark continues his account of Jesus using parables to teach about the kingdom of God and the gospel. And, here we find him teaching us that the gospel is to be shared and never hidden away. Jesus meant for his disciples to be light bearers of his gospel message after he returned to heaven. Jesus' disciples were to share the gospel at “light speed.” In fact, all of Jesus’ followers are to share the gospel message. So let me ask you a question this morning: What is your light speed? Let’s find out what Jesus says…

READ: Mark 4:21-25

We have all heard or sung the words, “The Light of the World is Jesus,” but what does that mean? While we may understand that it refers to the gospel message, in that understanding there is also an responsibility. It is a responsibility that has not disappeared with time, with modern conveniences, or the neglect of Christianity today. We learn from Mark that…

I. A Christian measures their light-speed by not hiding their light source! (Vv. 21-22)

1. A lamp has to be lit by someone! In this parable Jesus pointed out the self-evident fact that an ordinary household lamp, a lighted wick in a shallow clay bowl full of oil, was not meant to be lit and then hidden under a measuring bowl (as was done at bedtime) or a bed (lit., “dining couch”). It would be useless! Rather, it was to be placed on its stand in a prominent place where it would give off the most light. Why? Because Jesus knew that even a small light source can illuminate an entire darkened room! This why he asked, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand?” Often Jewish homes of the day were simply lit by one lamp! It was not only all they could afford but it was all that was really needed. We live in a day and age whereby we take for granted the cheap abundant electricity that lights our homes. All we do is flick a switch and we have instant light and it is not uncommon for us to have several lamps to illuminate any room of our house. During Jesus’ time they used simple clay bowls and placed a piece of cord for a wick into a small amount of olive oil. Olive oil was used because it was plentiful and cheap. However, while it gave off a warm glow it was a poor light source compared to today’s lighting, and you had to constantly trim the wicks. But any light in dark room was better than nothing when you needed to see! Then, Jesus continues by explaining that whatever was hidden or concealed (during the night – meaning the sin-darkened world) was meant to be brought out into the open (for use in the day – during the time of salvation when the gospel light would shine in the dark). Jesus used this story from everyday life to convey a spiritual truth for anyone willing to see by its light. Christians need to be a source of gospel light in a sin-darkened world! And just as you would not hide a lamp under a bowl the believer should not hide their gospel light either! This is why Jesus told his followers that “whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” He knew that believers can forget about the sin-darkened world around them. In fact, we discover that a Christian measures their light-speed by not hiding their light source – the gospel message of Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Just as we take for granted the electricity that illuminates our homes, we forget about the ambient light that fills our daily lives. Every home, every office, every building we enter is illuminated by instant electrical power. And the ambient light encroaches on our senses and life in that at night we cannot see the celestial panoply that journeys overhead. We have to get far from the lights of the cities we live in, in order to see what was common in Jesus’ day. It is no wonder that one small lamp lit inside of a dark house, in a city that had no street lamps, office buildings, or neon glow to encroach on the senses, was welcomed and seen as a warm, friendly, and comforting thing. After all the night held the hidden dangers of thieves, robbers, or those who liked to hide in the darkened corridors of the village. Nighttime was no place for a respectable person to journey. The dark was seen as the realm of sinful people and represented the sin-condition of mankind for the Hebrew. But now, through Jesus, one small lamp was lit that would illuminate the entire world! And in our world today Christians often take for granted the ambient light of the gospel they are surrounded by. We fill our lives with Christian music, books, radio, and television. We go see Christian movies and go to church where we fellowship with other Christians. There is nothing wrong with this, but there is a danger because in doing so, we can become used to the ambient light of the gospel we enjoy. Jesus would remind us that a Christian measures their light-speed by not hiding their light source!

What is truly distressing is that far too many believers have never shared their faith. Christians have conceded the command of Christ to hired guns instead, thinking that by paying for someone else to do the command that Jesus has given them, they will somehow be let off the hook. But is this true? Not if the Christian takes the parables of Jesus seriously. Here in Mark we discover that…

II. A Christian measures their light-speed by listening and doing the Master’s command! (Vv. 23-25)

1. Light is only good when it is shared! There was a reason why Jesus bluntly told his disciples that “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” He did not think they were deaf, but they had proven to be rather dense on occasion! Jesus knew that there would soon come a time when “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Mark 10:26) Jesus knew he would soon leave his followers on their own and who would share the gospel light then? The gospel would be proclaimed by those who followed his command to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) Jesus taught that if someone accepts the message of the gospel, they are responsible for what they have responded to! This is why Jesus continued by telling his listeners that they needed to “Consider carefully what” they heard. The gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus, is more then a life’s philosophy or a creed to live by. It is the life-changing and Holy Spirit renewal of a person’s very being. They are eternally changed. This is why it was not some mere suggestion on Jesus’ part, but a command. Otherwise his death, burial, and resurrection would be mute occurrence soon forgotten by everyone involved! All Christians would do well to take very seriously Jesus’ command to share the gospel light wherever they go because he reminds us that “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.” In fact, “Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” Wow! Does this mean we can lose our salvation if we do not witness to others with the light of the gospel? No, but it does mean we will not be the disciples God desires. Instead of a lamp that lights a whole room, we will be but dim bulbs barely illuminating the sin-darkened corner of our own pathetic self-centered lives. Jesus teaches us here in Mark that a Christian measures their light-speed by listening and doing the Master’s command!

EXAMPLE: According to publiceye.org evangelicals number about 23% of the population or approximately 66 to 70 million born-again believers. If this is even remotely true, if each person just shared their faith once a week, which would be 280 million times a month! If just one person out of 20 accepted the Lord, that would be 14,000,000 people accepting Christ each month! Instead what we do is allow our fear to dictate what we are commanded to do. Less than 1 out of 100 Christians have ever shared their faith at anytime during their entire lives! In other words, a believer could live to be 80 years old and only share their faith once, if at all! Sadly, when people are challenged to share their faith, they often leave the churches that encourage them to do so out of some convoluted personal guilt. So churches have taught heresy instead in order to make their listeners feel good about themselves. Churches teach that folks can share by being good and kind by being some kind of godly Boy Scout holding a dim flashlight in a sin-dark world. In fact it has been discovered that many mega churches depend on smaller churches as feeder churches to do the hard work of witnessing and discipleship to fill their ranks! However very few within the multitudes the show up for the show on Sunday have ever shared their faith or disciples anyone! And why would they? There is obscurity in numbers and no one ever holds them accountable! Stickers on your bumper or a good gospel Sunday show cannot replace the one-on-one command of Jesus to go and share the light of the world. We discover here in Mark that a Christian is to measure their light-speed by listening and doing the Master’s command!

Conclusion:
1) A Christian measures their light-speed by not hiding their light source, and 2) A Christian measures their light-speed by listening and doing the Master’s command!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Gospel Gardening - Mark 4:10-20

Gospel Gardening - Mark 4:10-20
by Pastor Lee Hemen
November 8, 2009 AM

Have you ever tried to explain something to someone who could not understand a word of what you were saying? No matter how hard you tried, they simply could not grasp the concepts you were trying to get across to them? I have. Especially when it concerns computer instructions or problems. I can relate to software or computer technicians that help folks over the phone on just how difficult it is to get concepts across. The person you are talking to needs to have a rudimentary understanding of computers, Microsoft Windows, and how they work together. And, contrary to what the Mac commercials you see on TV want you to believe, they have a multitude of problems just as PCs and Microsoft does.

Jesus used parables but they were not deliberately “mystic” nor was he trying to initiate people into some deeper religious practice. Rather, he spoke in parables so that those who had already been sensitized by the Holy Spirit would understand. We find Jesus talking about the subject of gospel gardening. His disciples did not understand what in the world he was talking about, so they privately ask him to explain it to them. Let's discover what Jesus meant as we also learn about gospel gardening today...

READ: Mark 4:10-20

I can remember trying to understand for the first time how to fertilize, moss kill, and take care of my lawn! Then I discovered that I had to weed my own flower beds! (Well, we heard how I feel about that last week. I just thank the Lord for my Weed Eater and Casoron crystals.) Gardening, while a very familiar thing for many of us, can be confusing when it is applied to spiritual concepts. Today, we find Jesus explaining the meaning of his parable of gospel gardening to his followers. We discover that…

I. The mystery of God’s gospel garden can be understood by those chosen of God! (Vv. 10-13)

1. God’s followers become his farmers in the world! When we are chosen of God, as I related last week, we immediately become one of his gardeners. Surprisingly, we find that Jesus’ disciples did not understand what Jesus was teaching with his parables. So, “When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.” Jesus begins to patiently explain to them its meaning. As his farmers they would go “out to sow… seed.” And, as such “The secret of the kingdom of God [had] been given to” them. The idea here is not one of secrecy but that of “mystery” (Greek: mustērion), and this mystery was now fully revealed to them. The mystery Jesus is speaking of is not some mysterious religious rite, but the gospel truth that salvation comes by faith in God’s messiah – Jesus himself! However, “to those on the outside everything is said in parables.” Those on the “outside” are those who were not chosen by God—the world. Jesus said that it was “so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” The age of Jesus was the arena where the gospel seed would first be sown only to those whom God had chosen to follow him at that time. Later, these would be the ones to sow the gospel seed to the world. Therefore, the gospel mystery would not be disclosed to everyone at that time on purpose. Why? Jesus had not died for mankind’s sins. Even the Old Testament prophets did not fully understand this truth! Paul related that it was “the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him!” (Romans 16:25-26) This is why Jesus asked his disciples, “Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?” Jesus hoped those he had chosen would understand the gospel message, the seed, contained within the parable. He knew that the mystery of God’s garden could be understood by those chosen of God!

EXAMPLE: I can remember as a young boy building tree houses and forts and then posting bold notices on the outside of them that would read: “No girls allowed!” After all, what self-respecting boy would allow cootie-ridden girls into their secret club!? Right? Of course the girls on the playground had their own secret societies that used cryptic languages such as pig-Latin or other things like Barbie-speak! (Don’t ask, I never could understand it.) However, this is not what Jesus was doing by using his parables. He did not use special language to exclude, but rather to see who would understand the spiritual truth they contained. Those who understood showed that they were chosen of God to hear and understand his message, and it would be these who would later cast the gospel seed. Jesus knew that the mystery of God’s garden could be understood by those chosen of God!

The soil here at the church is far different from the soil found out in the Orchards area where I live. While it is hard during the summer, it is easy to work in the winter, fall or spring. Whereas the soil out in Orchards is like concrete no matter what season of the year! It is full of rocks large, small, and all sizes in-between. It is amazing to me that anything grows in it at all. In fact, the trees out where I live, unless you provide and very large hole for them that goes deeper than the rock layer, their roots will be extremely shallow. This is why a lot of fir trees out where I live are always in danger of blowing over during big wind storms. We also discover from Jesus that…

II. The gospel garden of God consists of a variety of soils! (Vv. 14-20)

1. Sin-sick soiled souls will either accept or reject the gospel seed! The follower “farmer sows the word of God”, but he is not to notice the soil he tosses the seed on. Jesus gives his listeners three negative responses of how people respond and one positive one. 1) “Some” hear the word with a kind of hardhearted indifference. They “are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.” Satan is like the blackbirds that come immediately and steal the seed away as soon as it is cast. In effect, there is no response. 2) “Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.” They immediately take the Word with great outer enthusiasm, but since it is only a shallow acceptance “they have no root” and “last only a short time.” In fact, “When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” These people are like many in the world today. The word really takes no root in them at all. They love the sound of its goodness, but literally they “are repelled” by its message because it requires personal change. Their profession proves not to be genuine. 3) “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” These weeds of the world choke the word, making it unfruitful in the life of the hearer, indicating they were probably not true believers in the first place. The word of God was only a convenience for them when it brought them happiness, but when real life hits them, they cannot continue to walk in it. They are totally unfruitful their entire lives. But finally, 4) “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.” These are the ones whom God has chosen and they are like fertile ground just waiting for the gospel seed to take root in their lives. The gospel garden of God consists of a variety of soils!

EXAMPLE: I can remember hiking the length of Colockum Creek as a young boy. There were places a long its banks that contained ash deposits, clays of red, grey, green, and white, and fossils of many kinds. We would take the clay soils, mix them with water, and then paint our bodies all over with it. We looked like something out of a Amazon jungle movie, but man was it fun! Then we would run and hit the water and splash each other until it was all washed off. It was amazing to discover all the different soils along the banks of Colockum Creek. Jesus also taught about soils as well. He taught that the gospel garden of God consists of a variety of soils.

Conclusion:
We discovered Jesus talking about the subject of gospel gardening. His disciples did not understand what in the world he was talking about, so they privately ask him to explain it to them. He related that 1) the mystery of God’s garden could be understood by those chosen of God, and that 2) the gospel garden of God consists of a variety of soils.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my written permission.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Parables for A Purpose - Mark 4:1-9

Parables for A Purpose - Mark 4:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 1, 2009 AM

Seeds are such small superbly created things and yet mankind depends upon these tiny treasures from God in order to feed, cloth, or shelter himself. From a small seed can grow huge trees or the lowly squash. In fact, the maple that is growing outside of my front door is a tree that was started from a small seed. It now produces its own seedlings from helicopter-like seeds scattered by the wind around my yard and flower beds. It is amazing to me the message of God can be found in such a tiny thing, and that is why we find Jesus using the illustration of seeds to depict the kingdom of heaven and those who hear its message or not.Jesus often used parables in his teaching. Stories, that over and over again, his listeners had heard many times before, but he always put a new twist on them. And, Jesus used things that were familiar to his listeners. Many either ate for the day or went hungry depending upon how seeds were planted. It depended upon if there was enough rain or if the ground could support the seeds cast on it for a crop. So this morning we find Jesus using seeds in parables for a purpose. Let's find out how he does and perhaps discover exactly why...

READ: Mark 4:1-9

If you go on to read the verses that follow after the ones we are looking at today you will discover that Jesus explains the meaning of his using the parable he did. We will discuss his explanation to his disciples next week, but today's verses came alive to me in a whole new way and I wanted to share with you some thoughts about why I believe Jesus used parables with a purpose. Jesus often had several motivations for using the examples he did, and here we discover that...

I. Seeds need someone to plant them everywhere they go!

1. All believers are "farmers" planting the seeds of God's word! Notice that another large crowd had gathered. So much so that Jesus "got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge." He begins his teaching by saying, "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed." Why use the example of a farmer? I believe Jesus knew that he would not be the only "farmer" to plant the word of God. In fact, his whole purpose of using these stories was not only to gain listeners who understood them, but to teach those whom he had chosen. Jesus' disciples and apostles would, in a few short years, take his place as the main means of planting the gospel seed (the Word of God) and so it had better take root in their lives first. Jesus also understood you cannot plant seeds if you do not have any to plant! These men needed to understand that they would be the ones who would go out into the fields that were ready for planting to scatter the gospel seeds. It is from those seeds that these men scattered as they walked and talked and taught that we today are sitting here listening anew to the parables of Jesus! And as Jesus' spiritual farmers (disciples) sent out into the world, they were not to be overly concerned about the soil to see if it was ready for the gospel seed or not. They were just to go out and sow the seed! Over and over we find Jesus telling his followers to "go" and share the gospel. It would not always be easy. Later, Jesus would instruct them, "And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them" (Mark 6:11 NIV), because sometimes they would scatter it where it was tough, hard, or rocky and they would need to depend solely on the Spirit of God to cause it to germinate in the minds of their listeners. This spiritual truth remains the same this morning. After his resurrection, Jesus told his followers: "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15-16 NIV) The gospel seeds need someone, Jesus' follower farmers, to plant them everywhere they go! This is why Jesus used parables with a purpose. Are you willing to be God's farmer and scatter his seed in a sin-soiled world?

EXAMPLE: As a follower farmer some of your gospel seed will fall along the path, some will fall on rocky places and it will not have much soil to grow in, while sometimes it may fall on good rich soil and it will produce an abundant crop for the kingdom of God. I was struck by the fact, when I first read the Little House on the Prairie books, how the farmers of that era were so dependent upon finding the right place to grow their crops when they moved west. In fact, some settlers when they got here in to the Pacific Northwest thought that because of the huge trees the soil here was rich and fertile. They readily cut down the trees and planted seeds only to discover that the soil was thin and not fertile. The trees and the abundant rain had literally leeched the nutrients out of the ground and left hardly anything behind. However, no matter where you go the common dandelion grows quite well. It has been said, and I am not sure if this is true or not, that this tiny seed was brought here, like the tumble weed, from foreign soil and spread across the country and world by settlers. And it grows anywhere it is planted, kind of like the gospel seed. That is if someone like you who is a follower farmer for the Lord scatters it everywhere you go.

I love gardening but I hate to weed. I believe that's why God created the gas-powered weed whacker! With a few deft strokes and lots of monofilament line you can pulverize any weed that dares grow in your flower beds. For the really tough and woody ones you can attach a mini-saw blade! Of course you can also pulverize your flowers as well! Some plants are just pansies when it comes to growing. A funny fact though is the feral weedy cousin of the pansy, the Johnny Jump Up, that will grow just about anywhere! Watering, weeding, waiting - all of this is good horticulture. Here we find Jesus using parables for a purpose in teaching us about good horticulture. Here's what I mean: We discover that...

II. Seeds need the right conditions to grow strong!

1. Believers should know the basics of spiritual horticulture! You cannot always plant a seed and then walk away and expect it to grow. Sometimes, you may have to cultivate it, water it, and make sure it gets the right amount of sunshine! Or should I say, "SON-shine!" Anyway, Jesus knew that his follower farmers would need to become gardeners, mentors, and disciplers of his message. Caretakers of the kingdom of God need to spend time in the flower or vegetable beds they planted or they may dry up from legalism, burn from over exposure to heresy, or be watered-soaked through lackadaisical emergent behavior. I believe this is implied in Jesus saying that "some fell along the path...", "some fell on rocky places...", "other seed fell among thorns...", and " Still other seed fell on good soil!" Jesus wanted his follower farmers to also understand that the gospel seed needs the right conditions to grow strong! The Apostle Paul understood his part in planting and making sure the gospel seed had the right conditions when he wrote: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor." (1 Corinthians 3:6-8 NIV) Paul knew that Christians are "God's fellow workers" and that we work for God in "God's field." (1 Corinthians 3:9) God knows that new seedlings need good gardeners to make sure that they "will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:11-14 NIV) Jesus knew this as well and used parables for a purpose to tacitly teach his follower farmers that newly planted seeds need the right conditions to grow strong! All follower farmers of the Lord should know the basics of good spiritual horticulture. Do you? Who are you mentoring?

EXAMPLE: Christians should understand that Jesus is "the true vine" and that God the Father "is the gardener," but his followers are the mentors. In fact it is God who "cuts off every branch in [Jesus] that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:1-2 NIV) That is spiritual horticulture at its best. But believers are to know the basics of spiritual horticulture as well. I know that if I want a lot of good apples without worms in them I must prune my tree and apply the right kind of insecticide and fertilizer. Sometimes, you have to get really aggressive with both pruning and spraying. Sure you can let a tree go wild and it will produce fruit, but it will be wormy and the tree will be in poor condition. The same holds true for God's people. They have to be discipled after the gospel seed is planted and takes root in their lives or they will be in spiritually poor condition and produce wormy ungodly fruit. Sadly, we find that in many churches today, but the spiritual truth Jesus taught still holds true today: Seeds need the right conditions to grow strong! Believers should know the basics of spiritual horticulture.

Conclusion:

Next week we will learn that the disciples come and ask Jesus privately about the parables and why he taught using them so often. The crowds did not truly understand Jesus and we learned in the last several weeks that they only wanted what they could get out of Jesus. Here we find that Jesus used parables for a purpose. He often taught several spiritual truths at once by doing so. This morning we discovered that 1) Seeds need someone to plant them everywhere they go, and that 2) Seeds need the right conditions to grow strong!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my written permission.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Family or Man Does Not Understand - Mark 3:20-35

When Family or Man Does Not Understand - Mark 3:20-35
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 25, 2009 AM

During a Youth Camp I was directing one young teenage girl was deliberately creating personal drama all around her. Because of her self-centeredness and total self-absorption in boys, she was keeping the whole camp in turmoil. Of course, being the Camp Director, I had to be the one to confront her. At first she got really angry and tried yelling at me that I “just did not understand her and what she was going through.” So, I patiently asked her to explain it to me. As she got into her lengthy dissertation on why she was being a pill, she realized how totally selfish she was and how the whole camp had begun to not want to be around her. All of a sudden she went kind of pale, began to cry, and apologized.

We have all seen in situation comedies, or have experienced for ourselves, a pouting child that storms off into the next room while shouting to their bewildered parents, “You just do not understand me! NO one UNDERSTANDS ME!” The age old conflict of parents not understanding their children is nothing new. What can be just as difficult is when we think that the world does not understand us either. Surprisingly, we find these “misunderstandings” in the life of Jesus as well. Jesus’ ministry and his fame were beginning to grow. As it did, his teachings and his life began to threaten the powers that be and perhaps embarrass his family. Not only does his mother and siblings begin thinking he has lost all sense of reality, but those who considered themselves the teachers of all things regarding God also view Jesus as blasphemous. Why? Because Jesus was misunderstood. Let’s find out what happens, shall we?

READ: Mark 3:20-35

Last week we talked about the crowds that formed around Jesus and again we find another crowd forming. In fact, so much so “that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.” In this crowd were those who deliberately misunderstood Jesus’ ministry. In how he responds to their pettiness we discover…

I. How to respond when the world does not understand our faith!

1. Use the truth to confront and confound your accusers! Proverbs reminds us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1), and sometimes you have to confront your attackers head on as Jesus does here in Mark. Notice, however, how he does this. The “teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem” were deliberately confrontational. They immediately accuse Jesus of being “possessed by Beelzebub!” (The spelling “Beelzebub” comes from the Latin Vulgate which derived it from the Hebrew “Baalzebub” meaning “Lord of the flies,” an ancient Canaanite deity.) So they are bluntly stating that Jesus is possessed “By the prince of demons” and that he was “driving out demons” using by his own supposed Satanic power! Can you imagine? Now some misguided souls in the 21st century may struggle with the concept of Satan and demons, but Jesus, God’s Son, knew them to be very real. He therefore meets their accusation head on and asks, “How can Satan drive out Satan?” The answer of course is that he could not and the reason is obvious: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Or “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” And so, “if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; [therefore] his end has come.” If Jesus were Satanic, then by driving out demons, Satan’s kingdom is divided from within and it has already fallen! Well duh! Then Jesus does an interesting thing, he focuses on who he truly is. He does this by telling them that “In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.” Jesus has entered the “strong man’s house,” Satan’s realm, and literally seized or plundered his household! Jesus had come and taken those whom Satan had captured right out of his own household! Mark relates that “He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’” When those in the world did not understand who he was, Jesus met them head on with the truth. And so should all believers. This is how to respond when the world does not understand your faith.

EXAMPLE: Often when people first become Christians, their faith is questioned by those they work with, go to school with, or they consider as friends. Are you in a situation where you are misunderstood for your faith in Christ? Are you surrounded by co-workers, fellow classmates, or friends with a critical spirit concerning your faith? Do you get little or no credit for the work you do and then those around you criticize your Christianity? What would be the proper response for the believer? Jesus often responded in a gentle and humble way, but there were also times when he was willing to take a very definite head on stand. The proper response of course is to die to self as Jesus did throughout His life. However, while he was willing to die to self daily he was also quite willing to meet head on any question about his ministry, his sovereignty, or the grace of God. Jesus was willing to be misunderstood and maligned, to give up home and comforts, to take the role of a servant, and he was willing to meet head on anyone with the truth who would question his ministry. We must be willing to die in that way as well. We should use the truth to confront and confound our accusers.

We often can handle it when those in the world do not understand our walk in Christ, but we can really struggle when it is those we are closest to that misunderstand our faith. Should not those who claim to love us most, support us in our faith the most? You would think so and it can be difficult when they do not. We can then take it personally, but we should not do so. In fact, Jesus’ own family misunderstood his ministry and how he responds teaches us…

II. How to respond when our family does not understand our faith!

1. We should let our faith and honesty display what we truly believe! Jesus’ own family should have understood who he was from the very first, especially his mother! Wasn’t she surprised at the angel’s announcement and her own pregnancy? Didn’t she praise God for using her as an instrument of his will? Wasn’t it her home where the Wisemen came to worship the boy Jesus? Didn’t she “ponder” all these miraculous things surrounding Jesus? Yet even in the best of families we can find misunderstanding. Mark tells us that “When [Jesus’] family heard about” the crowds and his ministry, “they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” The Greek expression is that of family members and not “friends” like is translated in the KJV. And this holds to be true because we discover that when “Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him” out so they could speak with Jesus directly. Remember Jesus knew that “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” If his own family could not understand his ministry, it would be a tough road for him to travel. It was at this time that the “crowd was sitting around him… told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’” Jesus then rhetorically asks those around him, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus’ question was not being disrespectful of his family, but rather he was illustrating the deeper issue of a person’s relationship to him. That’s what Jesus always did throughout his ministry, he pointed people to their relationship with God. He never took people’s misunderstanding as a personal slight, instead he would invite them into the family of God. Mark relates that Jesus “looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!’” Jesus responds with the gospel truth that “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Anyone becomes part of God’s family when they place their faith in his Son. As John would state, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13) When his family did not understand, Jesus responded with faith and honesty to display what he believed. We should do the same.

EXAMPLE: One of the hardest things a new Christian can do is to share their faith with their own family members. Often it is because we fear what they already know everything about us. Every embarrassing detail. All of our dirty little secrets. The way we were before the Lord came into our lives. The only thing that can quell our fears is to share our faith the same way Jesus did. I still remember how tough it was for me to share with my own family and how difficult it still is to share with those whom I love the most that know me the best. However, when Jesus’ family did not understand, he responded with faith and honesty to display what he believed. We should do the same.

Conclusion:
We learned today two important truths when we are misunderstood for our faith: We learned 1) How to respond when the world does not understand our faith, and 2) How to respond when our family does not understand our faith! What about you, how will you respond from now on?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my written permission.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Gathering Crowds -- Mark 3:7-19

The Gathering Crowds -- Mark 3:7-19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 18, 2009 AM

Crowds and their dynamics are very interesting and have been studied by sociologists and pubic bystanders for centuries. Crowds can be mobs, crowds can be audiences, crowds can be steered and directed, or they can become mindless and panicked. And they can form for a myriad of reasons, everything from the looky-loos of a horrible accident to the gathered listeners of a vibrant speaker or musician. In fact, gathering crowds can become like storm clouds that gather on the horizon. They can become threatening and uncontrollable. I was a witness to such crowd dynamics in Vancouver BC during a Christian conference put on by the late speaker John Wimber. A convert to Quakerism, who was the Founding Director of the Department of Church Growth at the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth, that has spawned much of the emergent church theology of today. He also was a founding member of the music group, The Righteous Brothers and he began the neo-Pentecostal Vineyard movement. It was amazing to watch him hype up the crowd and then to direct them to do whatever he wanted. Including falling on the floor whimpering mindless drivel.

We find gathering crowds during Jesus’ ministry. We also discover that he discourages it because of the “sheep factor” which involves getting large groups to respond the way a speaker desires. We find the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin doing this during Jesus’ trail. We see it on film footage taken of Hitler’s mass rallies or on TV today from the raggedy crowds that gather and chant mindless slogans that always begin with the intellectually pithy: “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho!” As we look closely at Jesus’ ministry here in Mark’s gospel we discover an interesting thing occurring. We actually get to see how Jesus related to the gathering crowds. Let’s discover this morning what Jesus did and why…

READ: Mark 3:7-19

This begins the second major part of Mark’s gospel. Here we find Jesus’ ministry again by the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd forms in order to hear and see Jesus. Perhaps they came just to see the show that may or may not occur? Crowds often do just that. However, there can be a danger in crowds that form for these reasons. They can quickly turn ugly and unruly. Here…

I. We discover that there can be uncontrollable crowds! (Vv. 7-10)

1. Uncontrollable crowds come only for what they can get out of the spectacle, the show, or the day’s entertainment. Offer free samples and people will show up, give away free services and people will beat down your door, or give the folks a free show and they will come in droves. Modern day marketing schemes know that these kinds of things attract crowds. Many a mega church movement has been marketed by this means. The people of Jesus’ day were no different. The crowd was attracted by what they could get out of Jesus. Mark infers that because of who Jesus was and what he had been doing he “withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.” They wanted more from Jesus and all he wanted was to withdraw for a period of time, perhaps to reflect and relax, to be spiritually renewed. However, we find that “When they”, the crowd, “heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.” A multitude shows up! And, “Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him,” just in case, “to keep the people from crowding him.” Jesus knew crowds often want more than a person can sometimes give. Mobs only care for themselves. Medical care was almost non-existent then and what was available was often useless. A mild cold or even a minor scratch could often kill you. If someone suffered from a life debilitating disease, people often placed their faith in superstitious cures or bogus faith healers. Therefore, if someone showed up offering a cure or hope, the pressure to see him or to touch him would be great. In fact, Mark tells us that Jesus “had healed many,” and the crowd had gathered, “so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.” The mob could get ugly fast. Jesus could heal and the crowds came to be healed! We discover that there can be uncontrollable crowds!

EXAMPLE: We have seen uncontrollable crowds during rock concerts, soccer matches, or during rallies and marches. When people are deliberately riled up as a group there can take place a mob mentality whereby normal inhibitions are done away with and the mob mentality can take over. It is found in the ungodly behavior of drunken mobs during Spring break at the beach. It can also take place during political rallies or religious crusades. When we participated as a church during the last Billy Graham Crusade they warned of folks coming down because everyone else came down to the front. They therefore trained us to ask specific questions in order to try and sort out those who came forward and why they did. An uncontrollable mob mentality can take hold even during a time of responding to the gospel. I have seen this occur during youth camps or youth conventions. Young people will respond because their friends responded, or because they want to be part of what everyone else was part of, or they get excited about what is happening. During our last NW Baptist Youth Convention I counseled a dozen young people who came down, and only two knew why they had. The others got up and came forward because “everyone else was.” Here, in Mark, we discover that there can be uncontrollable crowds, even for the right reasons.

Jesus knew that crowds can become uncontrollable, but he also knew that God is not the author of confusion. He never works that way. God is not some big game show host in the sky wanting you to try and guess the right answer for your life. That is why He has supplied the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide those who trust Jesus with their lives. However there is one source of confusion that just loves to use the crowd mentality: Satan loves to use crowds as well. He loves to confuse and muck things up. But God has supplied an answer in those whom he calls into service for his kingdom. Therefore…

II. We discover that there can be handpicked crowds for a reason! (Vv. 11-19)

1. God uses those he chooses to establish his kingdom here on earth. Notice that Satan does not rest in stirring up trouble the lives of mankind. He is continually attacking and denouncing God in the lives of believers and slandering God’s people before the throne of God. In fact, we discover that the demons of darkness had caused such havoc in Jesus’ day that many of the ailments that befell folks were caused by their corruption. In the crowds were demoniacs, people whose speech and behavior were dominated by evil spirits and ungodly living. They recognized Jesus’ true status as the “Son of God” and were greatly threatened by His presence. Jesus did not accept their repeated cries of recognition, “But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.” This could bring up a couple of interesting questions: 1) Can crowds be more susceptible to demonic influence simply because of their very nature? And, 2) can individuals be easily swayed by Satanic influence by being part of a large uncontrollable crowd? Perhaps both are true. We find it is true historically from the mob mentality of the Salem Witch Trials to the French Revolution or Hitler’s rise to power. Notice however what Jesus does to thwart this spiritual threat. Jesus, instead of heading to the beach, “went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.” The crowds of the day needed to be directed or guided, one-on-one, by those who follow the Lord. So, Jesus “called” and “appointed twelve—designating them apostles.” Notice the three areas they were to work: 1) “that they might be with him” and 2) “that he might send them out to preach” and 3) “to have authority to drive out demons.” Where the Spirit of the Lord is, Satan and his minions have no authority. Interestingly, we learn that “nearly all major ancient Greek manuscripts and most early versions omit the phrase, ‘designating them apostles.’” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) However, Jesus appoints 12 men. Some who would question his ministry, some who would abandon him, and one who would betray him, but Jesus personally handpicked everyone of them for a specific purpose! We discover that there can be handpicked crowds for a reason!

EXAMPLE: Jesus would spend the next three years training these twelve men. Not all would learn the lessons he would give them. And we wonder why folks in our day and age sometimes cannot learn to follow Jesus correctly! If Jesus could not sway and train all of his followers, we will also struggle in this area as well. However, Jesus shows us that just as he handpicked certain men and called them to himself, we too are to make sure those who come to him are guided and discipled. Jesus has called us to call others and to train them up to be his disciples. We discover that there can be handpicked crowds for a reason! This is where many of today’s mega movements fail. While the masses come through the door, not all come for salvation, those who are saved can be quickly lost in the shuffle of the crowd and are never discipled properly and live a weak anemic faith. Add to this mixture the fact that many churches do not place an emphasis on Sunday School or Bible Study and you have a concoction for spiritual failure that does more harm than good for the kingdom of God. This is why we have fewer and fewer people witnessing or standing for the Lord in our day and age. Jesus called his disciples for a purpose because out of them would come the future church, his body in the world, that was to reach the world with his gospel message. We discover that there can be handpicked crowds for a reason.

Conclusion:
We have learned two important things form this section of Mark: 1) There can be uncontrollable crowds, and 2) there can be handpicked crowds that Jesus chooses. Which crowd are you part of this morning?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my written permission.