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.